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Mangled and singed, the stuffed, fabric bodies lay amid the cold ruins of a two-car crash. Seeing six “victims”, one an infant, the first team of firefighters/paramedics to arrive radioed for backup help, since even Evanston’s three ambulances would not be sufficient for the magnitude of this crash – even though it was a simulated one.

When they were not in their stations last month, Evanston’s firefighters, who are also trained paramedics, were still on the job, practicing life-saving rescues from victimless accidents.

Division Chief Geoff Block narrated the scene to a reporter during one of several emergency car-crash drills staged last month in the front lot of the former recycling center at 2222 Oakton St.

Firefighters poked at the rear passenger door of one car to allow an amkus tool – colloquially the “jaws of life” – to pry it open to rescue an “unconscious” victim still in her seatbelt, Division Chief Block said.

St. Francis Hospital acts as the “resource hospital,” or clearing house, when there are multiple victims, Division Chief Block said. “[A firefighter] will call St. Francis and say, ‘We have X victims.’ St. Francis will call back with assignments” – how many victims each local hospital can take, he added. If St. Francis and Evanston hospitals could not accommodate all the victims, calls would be made to other nearby hospitals with the immediate capacity to care for the remaining victims.

Division Chief Dwight Hohl said 78 firefighters, with five supporting staff, participated over the three days of training. “Our training is geared towards getting everyone in the [fire] department on the same page with the managing of incidents. … We evaluated our firefighters on their triage skills, treatment skills and communications; our officers on their communications skills and how they managed the group they were assigned; and our battalion chiefs on how they used their resources, set up their groups for triage, treatment, transport and staging and how they used the incident management system to effectively and efficiently mitigate the event. On a whole we were pleased with the outcome,” he said.

“Last week’s Mass Casualty evolutions provided our members training in three critical areas of our operations: our EMS region’s newly implemented multiple-patient management plan, incident command and vehicle stabilization and extrication of patients,” said Fire Chief Greg Klaiber. “This type of training challenges and prepares our firefighters for incidents involving multiple patients and affords them an opportunity to work on patient triage, prioritization of patient treatment and transportation to nearby emergency departments.”