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Disaster Drill Held in Orange County

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ORANGE COUNTY — Since the September 11 attacks, rescue workers all over the country have been examining their own plans for handling a crisis.

In Orange County, rescuers put themselves to the test twice a year.

In a scenario this weekend, three dozen people were injured when a propane tank exploded. Volunteers played the role of the injured.

Paramedics sorted the victims by need, using color-coded cards to indicate the severity of their injuries.

Kent McKenzie, a member of Orange County's Emergency Management Response Team, said in this type of disaster they would expected to see burns, shrapnel and internal injuries.

Victims with the most serious injuries were strapped onto backboards and loaded into ambulances, or into a converted bus that can carry 10 patients at once.

Rescuers work at a methodical pace, taught not to let their adrenaline take over.

"That's what our education is for all of our response folks, is to keep the adrenaline down, keep chaos out of the scene. Managing the scene is the most important skill we bring to this incident," said McKenzie.

The drill moved from Camp New Hope to UNC Hospitals, where the Emergency Room was standing by to treat dozens of accident victims.

ER doctors tested their skills at evaluating and treating victims of a mass casualty. In Orange County, that is defined as five or more victims at once. During this drill, they will see dozens of patients.

"What this allows us to do is to practice in a very controlled manner the actual flow and mechanics of seeing this many patients of this severity in a short period of time," said Dr. Brent Meyers.

Orange County rescuers say they have never handled the type of disaster they are training for now, and that makes this practice even more important.

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