YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – Twenty or more police, fire and rescue vehicles recently converged near Mammoth in Yellowstone National Park to take part in a very lifelike training exercise.
What might look like just another corner of Yellowstone National Park on a blustery spring day — where the people in the park who might normally tell you where to find the animals or point out interesting geological features — spent time practicing ways to help in a life and death situation.
“Every opportunity like this, every training opportunity, reveals both where our strengths are, said Morgan Warthin. “But also, how we can improve.”
Among the lessons learned during the exercise — some equipment didn’t work, some radio gear didn’t communicate between different agencies and in a true mass casualty situation — a lot of ambulances would be needed in a hurry.
“You know, the number one challenge is we are remote, so it takes a while to get to Yellowstone,” Warthin said.
The mock bus crash was the first exercise like of its kind in several years in the park and there were positive takeaways to be found.
Once on the scene, first responders from eight different agencies inside and outside the park worked together well and confusion was kept to a minimum.
"I think the lesson for visitors who come to the park is to know that safety always is our first priority, but given that the park is remote, the roads, the roads are not like a highway, like [Interstate] 90,” Warthin explained. “You can’t travel as fast on those roads. So, often the response is going to take a little bit longer.
Family members of park employees, Xanterra employees and residents of Gardiner all volunteered their time to act as victims for the exercise.