Area firefighters and EMTs train for a disaster

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:17

    WEST MILFORD-It was 7:30 p.m., Oct. 18, when the alarm was sounded: ‘Fire at the high school with students trapped in the media center.' Four West Milford Volunteer Fire Companies respond, as does the West Milford First Aid Squad. To the men and women rolling in their emergency vehicles, this is the real deal. Within minutes, Fire Companies 1 (Apshawa), 2 (Community), 4 (Macopin) and 6 (West Milford), are enroute, together with four ambulances from the West Milford squad. Macopin Fire Company alone fields 20 of its 30 firefighters and three pieces of apparatus. Apshawa also sends three apparatus while Community sends one truck and West Milford sends its tower ladder. As the units pull in, there's no sign of fire. It's a disaster drill staged by Macopin's fire chief, Bill Pittelko, who monitors their efforts. The firefighters grab their equipment and head into the school, while Emergency auditorium by a collapse there. "We evacuated six firefighters with our rapid intervention teams and six civilians with various injuries." "We evacuated simulated victims," said Cronin. They were then taken to a "simulated" hospital for triage, he said. "We used our first aid squad's personnel, and equipment from our mass casualty unit. There were no injuries to any of the rescuers." Emergency personnel throughout New Jersey and elsewhere hold such drills to test their skill levels. Some go well, others are disasters. Asked to rate the Oct. 18 drill at West Milford High School, Chief Pittelko said: "Everything went fairly well. "Communications to the command system were utilized very well. That was one of the goals, to find out what faults we might have due to training and the limited manpower we had. All the functions we needed to perform were performed very adequately. Obviously, if it was a real incident we would be calling in a lot more resources because we definitely would have had a lot more victims." Asked about his qualifier of "fairly well," he gave a wry smile and said: "The one problem was our victims never showed up." He said the Boy Scouts that were to be used apparently went to the wrong school. "Whenever you're trying to do a drill like this, and trying to keep it hush so nobody knows anything about it, there's always something that fails."