Disaster Drill Story

Piedmont College hosted a disaster drill for the R.H. Daniel School of Nursing and Health Sciences on March 27, 2019. The drill is an annual training assessment for senior nursing majors where junior nursing majors act as victims for the seniors to triage and treat. This year, the drill was a fire inside the Swanson Center for the Performing Arts. The drill began at 10 a.m. and ended around 12 p.m.

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Nursing majors during the Disaster Drill in the Swanson Center at Piedmont College / Ansleigh Harrison

Several other departments at Piedmont College were also involved in the drill. The mass communications department joined in the event by sending out journalists and a video production crew to cover and promote the drill. Piedmont College’s theatre department helped by creating wounds out of makeup, ripping up old clothes for the victims to wear and creating pyrotechnical explosions to make the drill as realistic as possible.

“It took me 45 minutes to get this thing entirely smoked up enough to set off the fire alarm,” said John Spiegel, associate professor of theatre. Spiegel, along with Associate Professor of Theatre Henry Johnson, are in charge of pyrotechnics for the disaster drill.

“This is the first time we’ve done it in a building. Normally it’s out either in the amphitheater or in the amphitheater parking lot or around this building (the Swanson Center),” Spiegel said.

Due to the nature of the drill this year, Spiegel said that set up, clean up and set construction processes were much shorter than they have been in the past.

Lisa Buirch, a junior nursing major at Piedmont College, said acting like a victim was easy for her. “I guess I’m sort of a method actor,” said Buirch. “This is a lot of fun for me. I’m really excited to participate and to help in our endeavors.”

There were over 100 victims that participated in the disaster drill. Each victim had makeup on various parts of their body to resemble burns or other wounds caused by the fire, and had specific instructions on how to act during the drill.

“My wound today is a burn to my lower leg and foot,” said Buirch. “I will make eye contact, but I’m unresponsive.”

One senior nursing major, Rachel Hill, described the drill as “chaos.”

“I had a lot of patients who seemed to have some neural status issues like levels of consciousness were altered, lots of psych patients; there were quite a few burn victims,” Hill said. “I had a patient who had some blunt force trauma, trampled patients. It was a little difficult.”

A few first responders, nursing professors and the Public Information Officer for District 2 Public Health, Rob Moore, held a mock press conference for the students acting as press. Karen Greilich, Associate Professor of Nursing, announced during the press conference that, out of the 100 victims, there were 28 fatalities, 29 non-critical patients and 28 moderate to very critical patients.

The disaster drill is a major assessment of senior nursing majors’ training and abilities, but it takes more than just the School of Nursing to pull it off. The disaster drill at Piedmont College not only involves other departments on campus, but also many of the first responder teams in the area, like the Demorest police and fire departments. The annual disaster drill at Piedmont College is a community event that allows both current and future first responders to practice their life-saving skills in a realistic environment.

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