Mock disaster drill tests students’ emergency response knowledge


Jenna VonHofe

Graduate student Rebekah Hamner and volunteers act as natural disaster victims in a mock disaster drill Thursday at the Frank Erwin Center. The drill simulated a natural disaster area in which teams of UT nursing, social work and pharmacy students assessed and rescued victims. 

Lizzie Jespersen

Teams of UT nursing, social work and pharmacy students carried mannequins and volunteers pretending to be natural disaster victims to safety in a mock disaster drill Thursday at the Erwin Center.

The drill simulated a natural disaster that caused the building to collapse internally. Volunteers acted as victims strewn across the disaster area while 120 student emergency responders worked in teams to assess the situation and rescue victims, stabilize them until emergency personnel arrived and perform basic first aid.

Whitney Thurman, clinical nursing instructor and the event’s organizer, said after past disaster drills, students reported feeling more comfortable communicating with peers and colleagues in intense environments.

“We are doing this because we feel strongly that in today’s environment all health professionals should have a basic level of disaster response training so that no matter where they are working, they will be able to help out if and when disaster strikes,” Thurman said.

Before the simulated disaster struck, nursing, social work and pharmacy students were trained in basic citizen emergency response.

Volunteers were trained in how to act as victims. Each volunteer was given an injury using makeup and told how to respond to certain events during the simulation. Injuries included sprained ankles, gashes and possible pregnancy complications. As the student emergency responders rushed to lend aid during the drill, the volunteers cried out for help. 

Bobbie Sterling, a nursing instructor whose students attended the event, said there were ethical dilemmas at play during the drill.

“I have previous students volunteering who are looking at the ethical implications of who gets treated first,” Sterling said.

Thurman said students would leave the drill with a better understanding of how to determine who should be treated.

“Nurses are in critical healthcare roles all over the country doing all sorts of different things, so these specific skills will help them in the event their hospital is called up to respond to, say, terrorists or severe weather events,” Thurman said. “Their minds will be trained to do the most good to the most amount of people.”

Social work graduate student Danielle Oviedo said that she hoped to leave the drill with the confidence that she would be calm in a crisis.

“I think it’s important that as social workers we’re getting more and more out into the field and that we’re getting more into the crises situations,” Oviedo said.