Volunteers dressed as injured children and adults were rescued in an emergency response drill Saturday morning at Higley High School in Gilbert.
The simulation, dubbed “Operation Higley,” was the first of its kind in Gilbert.
Kim Yonda, a volunteer coordinator with the Gilbert Fire Department, said the event took around nine months to plan and included 139 rescue workers from the Gilbert Community Emergency Response Team and fire departments from Gilbert, Chandler and Tempe.
The goal was to practice effective communication and medical assistance in the case of a large-scale emergency.
More than 60 volunteers with dramatized injuries and burns were placed in Higley High classrooms and locker rooms.
The scenario called for a normal day at school — with around 1,000 students in the building — when a severe thunderstorm interrupted classes with flash flooding and winds of up to 100 mph.
The rescue workers’ objective was to locate injured people, provide medical assistance and then arrange transportation to nearby medical facilities.
“We’re trying to make it as real as possible,” said one safety officer.
Several response teams entered the buildings in search of victims, while others set up makeshift medical facilities on the school’s lawn.
The injured were urged to simulate real situations, expressing pain and disorientation as they were led out of the building.
Response team members and fire officials examined injuries, took vital signs, and applied bandages to victims in the medical areas on the lawn.
Those with simulated chemical contamination injuries or other severe injuries were led to large yellow tents set up nearby.
“We’re simulating a mass contamination of people,” said Gilbert fire Capt. Gary Ehlers. “We’ve got the ability to decontaminate up to 400 people.”
Inside the tents, compartments were set up allowing people to rinse off in privacy and be transported to medical facilities via ambulances.