Putting it to the test: Full-scale disaster scenario training set for Oct. 9 in Dickinson

Dunn County Emergency Services conduct a full-scale emergency response scenario at Killdeer Public Schools in 2019. Photo by James B. Miller, Jr. / The Dickinson Press

On Wednesday, Oct. 9, the Southwestern District Health Unit, in coordination with St. Benedict’s Health Center, St. Luke’s Home, CHI St. Alexius, Sanford Health, ABLE Inc., Dickinson Ambulance Service, Dickinson Fire Department, Dickinson Police Department, Stark County Sheriff’s Department and other supporting agencies, will conduct a full-scale tornado exercise from 8 a.m. to approximately 1 p.m.

“We work together all the time, but the more we practice, the better off we’ll be,” Sherry Adams of the SWDHU said of the upcoming training procedures.

The past two years have seen a pandemic and winter storm as threat assessment topics, but this year, the disaster test will be a tornado that has swept through the area taking out a nursing home.

About 45 students from Dickinson High School will act as victims from the nursing home. Eleven Dickinson State University nursing students will take part in the training as assistance to emergency staff.

The “victims” will be scanned and triaged into separate color groups based on the severity of their injuries.


Red-triage victims will have the most severe injuries and will be transported by ambulance to CHI St. Alexius Health Dickinson Medical Center for assessment. At least two of the actors on the level will be subjected to practice decontamination procedures.

Yellow-triage individuals will be transported via an ambulance bus from the state Health Department to either St. Luke’s or Sanford Health East Dickinson Clinic and will have injuries that can be stabilized until further care arrives. A few of the yellow-level people will also be taken to one of two ABLE homes via a bus provided by elder care.

“Green” people, those with minor injuries, will also go to ABLE Inc. homes.

The training also will include two coroners who will assess the remains of the theoretical tornado’s eight fatalities.

In the hopes of avoiding surprise, Dickinson Police Chief Dustin Dassinger stated in a public service announcement Monday that families and residents of St. Benedict’s and St. Luke’s have been notified of the exercise.

On the non-medical side, both the fire and police departments as well as the emergency management offices over four counties will take part in the training to test their emergency operations procedures, such as establishing a unified command and allocating emergency resources.

“During this time,” Dassinger said in the brief, “Citizens may see first responders at St. Benedict’s Health Center, St. Luke’s Home, Sanford Health EAst, CHI St. Alexius Health and ABLE Inc. loading volunteers participating in the exercise as injured victims and should not be alarmed.”

Every year, health and medical agencies throughout the region take part in at least one full-scale disaster scenario in order to both test the effectiveness of each organization’s equipment and procedures as well as to prepare each county’s citizens and public servants for possible catastrophes.


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