Tornado strikes Piedmont campus, injuries nearly 100

by Alyssa Gibson

Editor’s Note: This was written as a breaking news story covering a simulated disaster drill at Piedmont College. The event served as a training opportunity for the college’s nursing students.

Piedmont College was a chaotic wasteland after a tornado ripped through a crowd of unsuspecting students on Wednesday morning.

Students were found strewn along the sidewalk as the tornado swept through the Piedmont amphitheater, flinging branches and debris and causing near-toxic amounts of smoke to blanket the Swanson Center.

Habersham Police, Habersham County Emergency Services Department, Homeland Security and Public Health were all present at the scene as well as 70 Piedmont nursing students who were enlisted to help with injuries. “Around 97 students are in need of medical attention,” said Karen Greilich, coordinator of the on-scene disaster relief efforts. “We have Habersham search and rescue dogs on the scene looking for any other victims that may be lost in the woods and drones overhead surveying the scene.”

Students were being treated while many deceased victims had to be left behind. Friends and family were separated from each other as victims were being escorted to safe zones by the Piedmont nursing students. “I just watched my baby die,” said Marianne Smart, a junior at Piedmont. “She was 2 and they wouldn’t let me go back for her. It was horrifying.”

Deceased victims were categorized as black using the standard nursing triage system and left where they were lying. Nursing students were encouraged to leave terminal victims classified as black or gray and focus on those with a higher chance of surviving.

“We never do CPR. If a person isn’t breathing or doesn’t have a pulse you move on. You can’t use all of your resources on one victim.” Greilich said. “It’s the greatest good for the greatest number. That’s the bottom line.”

Nursing students and EMS focused their attention on victims in need of immediate attention by administering bandages, medicine and thermal blankets. “We went in in teams of four and escorted as many people as we could out of there,” nursing student Chelsea Thomas said. My team picked up the red or most critical patients according to the triage system and gave them the necessary bandages and medicine we could provide on the scene before they were taken to the hospital in an ambulance.”

Rev. Tim Garvin-Leighton was also on the scene providing comfort to those in need. “I’m trying to keep people calm. That’s my main responsibility,” he said. I’ve been helping escort people to the safe zones as I can. It’s very crazy, but we’ve been able to rescue a lot of people. All we can do is wait and provide peace where we can.”

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