Wednesday, June 10, 2009

MDDF Mass Casualty Exercise

By CPL (MD) Allison Hastings
Maryland Defense Force Public Affairs
10 June 2009

Towson, Md. - The Maryland Defense Force’s 10th Medical Regiment participated in a major multi-agency disaster exercise at Towson University on April 17. This was the MDDF’s second year participating in the event hosted by the university’s College of Health Professions and involved students, faculty, local emergency services, the Maryland National Guard, the Maryland State Police, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Baltimore County Medical Emergency Task and several state and community agencies.

The exercise scenario involved a powerful tornado striking the university and surrounding areas of Towson, creating hundreds of casualties which quickly overwhelmed local first responders and emergency rooms. In real life, Towson University functions as a surge site or “overflow” site in the event of a Baltimore-area mass casualty crisis. The scenario is realistic - in 2001 a tornado rolled across College Park killing two people and injuring more than 50.

The exercise involved some 700 participants, including 500 Towson University students who volunteered to be “casualties.” Among the 67 MDDF participants who provided both medical and operational support to the exercise were 32 doctors, physician’s assistants and nurses.

“One of the unique capabilities of the MDDF is our ability to deploy organized teams of doctors and nurses into an emergency field situation, as in this scenario,” said Brig. Gen. (MD) Courtney Wilson, MDDF commander.

MDDF personnel were responsible for a number of tasks to include triage instruction, medical support to injured victims and nursing students, mental health support and referrals, security, communications, and establishing an operations center and a field treatment center.

One of the primary objectives of the exercise was to train Towson’s nursing students in triage and to expose them to a realistic and demanding mass causality situation.

“Mission one was training and exposing the young nursing students at the department of nursing at Towson to disaster triage,” said Col. (MD) Wayne Nelson, Jr., deputy commander of the 10th Medical Regiment of the Maryland Defense Force. “They get very little exposure in school and we are one of the few programs in the country that gives them this kind of real life exposure to the five-star disaster triage process.”

MDDF medical personnel taught the nursing students the proper execution of the triage process and reviewed each student’s assessment and treatment plans for the victims. Defense force members were also responsible for carrying out open communications with National Guard members both on the ground and in the air and ensuring that the premise was safe at all times.

Although this was a training exercise, the MDDF has done it for real before. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina which struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, MDDF deployed some 250 medical volunteers to Louisiana for 18 days where they established six treatment centers and treated more than 7000 patients.

Headquartered at the Pikesville Military Reservation in Baltimore, the Maryland Defense Force is a volunteer uniformed state military agency organized under the Maryland Military Department. Formally established by the Maryland legislature in 1917, the unit's heritage and traditions trace back to the 17th century.

MDDF is one of a number of State Defense Forces authorized by the U.S. Congress under Title 32 and the respective state legislatures. While specific missions vary from state to state, State Defense Forces exist primarily to augment the capabilities of the National Guard. Employing volunteers who bring military experience and/or civilian professional skills, they supplement the capabilities of the National Guard, assist in National Guard mobilization for federal service, replace National Guard assets deployed out-of-state, and support state homeland security missions. State Defense Forces operate under the command of the Governor, as state Commander-in-Chief, and fall under the operational control of the state Adjutant General. State Defense Forces receive no federal funds and are supported entirely by the state.

For more information about the Maryland Defense Force, go to