Firefighters plan for the worst and practice to be the best

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By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

East Pierce Fire and Rescue interim Chief John McDonald figures practice makes perfect, and that was the plan Saturday.

East Pierce put together a practice mass casualty incident Saturday in Sumner at the Western Wood Preserving and Pivetta Brothers Construction site. The businesses agreed to allow the drill on their property.

The scene involved a simulated head-on collision between Amtrak and Sounder passenger trains.

Firefighters and emergency medical crews from Orting Valley Fire and Rescue, Edgewood Fire and Rescue, Valley Regional Fire Authority, Puyallup Fire and Rescue, Central Pierce Fire and Rescue, Lakewood Fire, Tacoma Fire and East Pierce Fire and Rescue participated.

More than 20 volunteers acted as injured victims and about 130 firefighters and emergency members.

Good Samaritan Hospital was the disaster medical control center.

According to East Pierce, the event was designed to provide hands-on training for the emergency crews that hit the scene of a major disaster first. It will also give the districts the opportunity for learn more about the multi-agency response.

“It’s kind of like organized chaos,” East Pierce Training Capt. Pat Beers said. “The worst thing that could happen on an actual MCI (mass casualty incident) is for everyone to run in and start doing his or her own thing. This drill gives us the opportunity to prepare for the unthinkable.”

Despite drenching rain and cold weather, both emergency crews and victims played their parts perfectly, and the best part was it was not for real.

Reach Dennis Box at or 360-802-8209.

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