March 24, 2021 at approximately 10 a.m., students at Piedmont College began to witness harsh winds, debris, and chaos as the Swanson center filled with smoke.
“The disaster drill here at Piedmont is an annual event we have for our nursing, athletic training, theatre, and mass communication majors,” said Professor Karen Greilich, the organizer of the event.
Thankfully the commotion of smoke and debris were staged to help make the experience appear more real. This year, Piedmont simulated a tornado and fire to help about 200 nursing students get some hands-on learning experiences. Not only were the students involved, but this drill also included the City of Demorest Police and Fire departments, Habersham County Medical Center and EMS, Habersham County Fire Department, Sheriff’s Office, 911/Emergency Management Agency, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security, Habersham Search and Rescue, and District Two Public Health Administration.
“My role was to flirt with the rescuers and ask if they wanted to go get a drink and I made it convincing by doing just that,” said Caitlyn Worthy, a junior and nursing major at Piedmont. Caitlyn’s role was to act as a victim who was trying to distract the rescuers to make it even more challenging for them to stay professional and do their job. Both juniors and senior nursing majors were able to participate in this event. The juniors were playing the victims and were all covered in fake blood and had fake diagnoses. The seniors were the nurses and had to help treat all the “patients.” Caitlyn said, “My favorite part was to see the victims acting in a real way to better the drill and make it as real as possible.”
Professor Greilich said, “Last year we were unable to do the disaster drill due to COVID-19, however we were fortunate enough to make it happen this year. This is an annual event and about the 14th or 15th year we have had the chance to do it.” When asked if this is an event that will continue for years to come, she said, “Absolutely, it will only get better and more real.”
Gabby Lotter, a senior and athletic training major at Piedmont also had the opportunity to participate in this event. “This teaches students how to collaborate with other healthcare professionals in the event of an emergency.” Not only were the students told to act like it was a real tornado and fire, so were all the emergency and medical professionals that came to participate. They also made the event seem extremely real as the firefighters wore all their actual gear, and medical professionals helped guide and direct the nursing students.
Not only did the nursing and athletic training students make it believable, but so did the theatre and mass communication majors as well. Theatre students were at the Swanson Center hours before the event kicked off to help dress up the victims and make them look as if real injuries had occurred. The mass communication majors had students taking video and interviewing people of all kinds at the scene as if it were a real breaking news story.
Overall, this experience had a positive impact on all individuals involved. It gave the nursing students at Piedmont a closer look at what a real-life situation in the medical filed may look like one day. It allowed theatre students to practice their acting skills and make the situation as believable as possible. It also gave the mass communication students an opportunity to practice their reporting, interviewing, and video shooting skills. This drill is something that not many schools give their students the opportunity to participate in, however, Piedmont goes above and beyond to give their students the most knowledge and experience in their field of study before their time at Piedmont has concluded.
Gabby Lotter stated, “This experience was really cool and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.”