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Nevis drills for natural disaster preparedness

Paramedic Brian Huewe, left, assists Eastern Hubbard County Fire District firefighter Kevin Gentry and Nevis firefighter Don Umthun transport "tornado victim" Mackenzie Gatewood. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Nevis School was the site of a natural disaster drill Monday, a "tornado" descending at 1:06 p.m., destroying the temporary classrooms on the school's west end and "injuring" students in the wake of the storm.

Several students volunteered for the exercise, earning community service hours for civics class.

Prior to "touchdown," students received artificial blood and simulated injuries, with the assistance of Dennis Mackedanz of North Memorial Ambulance.

Joe Bolling, for example, suffered a lacerated forearm, a smashed nose and puncture wound in his side.

Teachers were aware of the drill, but not given specifics.

When the time came, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and First Responders from the Nevis Fire Department and Eastern Hubbard County Fire District descended on the school. Brent Haynes served as chief paramedic for the operation.

Law enforcement also arrived, including Hubbard County sheriff's deputies and the Park Rapids police.

The drill was two years in the planning stages, superintendent Steve Rassier told Nevis staff in a debriefing following the exercise.

Nevis fire chief Kerry Swenson said accountability worked well but communication needs some tweaking.

"The radio system will eliminate communication issues," he said of equipment that's on its way.

After the exercise, Swenson said the department will work on triage, noting "tunnel vision" sets in when members encounter the first victim.

With one exception, all the firefighters in the Nevis department are EMTs or First Responders.

"There used to be more fires," he said. "Now our customer base is medical. I'm living proof," he said of a serious motorcycle accident he suffered a few years ago.

Each exercise, he said, sheds light on means to expedite and improve.

"For the most part, it went well."