By LeAnn R. Ralph
WHEELER — Emergency Medical Technicians from Colfax and Boyceville are planning a mass casualty disaster drill for Wheeler next May.
The “disaster” is planned to occur at the railroad tracks and Birch Street in Wheeler, said Don Knutson, director of the Colfax Rescue Squad, at the Wheeler Village Board’s October 8 meeting.
The mass casualty disaster drill on May 3 is expected to involve up to ten different fire, ambulance and other emergency agencies from around the area, he said.
The Colfax Rescue Squad and the Boyceville ambulance service are hosting a large-scale multi-agency training course to prepare for the mass casualty incident in Wheeler.
The training sessions are being held in the fellowship hall of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Wheeler and began October 3. The training sessions will continue the first Thursday of every month until next May, except for the month of December.
Knutson told the Wheeler Village Board he wanted to give them a “heads up” about the disaster drill.
Knutson also noted that he is waiting to hear from Canadian National Railroad about using the crossing and to hear from Wisconsin Industrial Sand to see if the emergency agencies can use the property next to the sand-loading facility in Wheeler.
Birch Street crosses the railroad tracks right across the street from Our Savior’s Lutheran.
The disaster drill will also require the use of a makeshift hospital, and Knutson asked about using either the Wheeler Village Hall on Tower Road, or the emergency shelter right across the street from the village hall.
James Carter, village president, said the emergency agencies were welcome to use either the village hall or the storm shelter but pointed out that the storm shelter does not have telephone service.
The makeshift “hospital” will allow emergency personnel to practice moving and treating a large number of casualties, Knutson said.
Carter wondered if the emergency personnel would need more space than the storm shelter.
Our Savior’s Lutheran will be the “jumping off point,” but if a funeral — or a wedding — were planned for that Saturday, it would throw a curve into the plans, Knutson said.
Robin Goodell, village clerk-treasurer, said she would schedule the disaster drill for the village hall on May 3 to make sure that the space is available if needed.
The drill will proceed no matter whether it is raining, snowing, storming, hot or cold, Knutson said, because disasters can occur in any kind of weather.
The mass casualty drill will involve between 12 and 25 patients, he said.
Jackie Ponto, administrator and village clerk-treasurer in Colfax, had recently asked Knutson about any plans for training with other agencies.
Knutson said he had called Matt Feeney, director of the Boyceville ambulance service, about planning a disaster drill, and the two had decided Wheeler would be a good location since it is located between Colfax and Boyceville.
Linda Crosby, village trustee, mentioned the disaster drill a few years ago at the ethanol plant between Wheeler and Boyceville.
The ethanol plant drill was a good-sized drill, but Knutson said he and Feeney are planning to involve even more agencies in the Wheeler disaster.
The residents of Wheeler should be made aware of the disaster drill, Crosby said.
Water bills will be going out at the end of March, and Goodell said she could send a letter with the bills letting Wheeler residents know about the disaster drill coming up on May.
Goodell wondered if the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department would be handling traffic.
Sign boards along the road set up to warn motorists of “disaster training in progress” were used at the ethanol plant as well as for a drill in Boyceville and worked quite well, Knutson said.
Crosby wondered if the disaster drill would need volunteer “patients,” but Knutson said he was hoping to use fire students from Chippewa Valley Technical College.
Will the disaster drill need anything from the Wheeler water department? Goodell asked.
The drill may need street barricades, and fire trucks may hook up to fire hydrants, but they probably will not use any water, Knutson said.
The drill will not involve and lights and sirens and will be low key, he said.
Since Feeney also is a Dunn County Sheriff’s Department deputy, he is in charge of coordinating law enforcement, Knutson said.
The first training session last week at Our Savior’s drew between 20 and 25 participants, he said.
According to a flyer that Knutson has distributed, a variety of agencies may want to consider attending the mass casualty multi-agency training sessions, including the Menomonie fire department, first responders, the Colfax fire department, the Boyceville fire department, personnel from the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department, the Boyceville police department, the Colfax police department, Dallas EMS, Glenwood City EMS, the Ridgeland, Sand Creek and Prairie Farm fire departments, Dunn County 911, any MABAS Division 117 members, and area township and village representatives.
The flyer also notes that anyone who is interested is encouraged to attend.
Here is the schedule for the remainder of the training sessions at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church on Main Street (state Highway 170) in Wheeler:
• November 7 — ethanol and Haz-Mat.
• December — no class due to the holiday season.
• January 2 — dealing with news and new media.
• February 6 — triage.
• March 6 — railroad.
• April 3 — extrication and safety on scene.
• May 3 — large scale live training drill.