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Newsletter December 2009

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Welcome to European Union project CoSafe.

CoSafe in major accident exercise in Finland

Together with the Finnish authorities, the Finnish partners of the CoSafe project organized a major traffic accident rescue exercise in Taivalkoski (road No. 8631), Northern Ostrobothnia. The accident scenario was as follows: due to bad weather and icy roads, a school bus had slid into a ditch beside the road, and landed on its right side. The air temperature was 0 °C at the time of accident, and there were 20 young students (aged 16-19) and a driver (aged 57) on the bus. The driver was unconscious and two persons had walked off into forest in shock. One of the casualties had become trapped under the bus and died. Four of the students were badly injured (requiring immediate transportation or medical attention), two were moderately injured (transportation could be delayed) and 14 were minimally injured. The rescue operation lasted 1h 35 min starting from when the emergency call was made, but the arrival time of units was actually half of what it would be in a real situation. About 70 persons took part in this recue operation exercise.

The CoSafe project concentrated on:

Protection of the casualties from cold.
Removal from the bus resulted in a rapid fall of 1 - 2 °C in mean skin temperature (see Figure). Legs and hands cooled in particular. Therefore, covering the patient is essential, even during a short transfer.

Rescue staff.
Physical workload was moderate to heavy on average, with short bouts of high intensity work, such as sawing the windscreen, carrying casualties, or running. Rescue personnel perspired due to heavy fire protective clothing and physical activity.

A new risk assessment tool
was also tested during the rescue exercise. Specialists observed the exercise at the scene, and participants from different authorities and organizations were interviewed later. Participants were asked if adequate factors were taken into account in the new model of the risk assessment tool. Their opinions varied greatly. The future challenge for development is to integrate the risk assessment of major accidents with the risk assessment of daily accidents, and to embed them into the incident management and safety management of fire departments.

The overall conclusion of the exercise was that there were sufficient resources for the rescue operation in the accident area, that communication and management should be more structured, a warmed casualty collection point is needed, and that the logistics of stretchers and covers for the casualties must be developed.

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