Nursing students respond to emergency disaster drills

By Kelly McCarthy

May 7, 2013 Updated May 8, 2013 at 1:22 AM EDT

Vestal, NY (WBNG Binghamton) A simulated nuclear explosion sends hundreds of victims to Binghamton University's Events Center, where senior nursing students were ready to respond for hands-on emergency training.

Binghamton University's Events Center was transformed Tuesday into an emergency safe zone for victims of a simulated disaster.

Senior nursing students used the opportunity for training before taking on their first job.

Marisa Silvers treated her first of what were be many "patients," before graduating with a nursing degree in May.

"You're going to really remember it when you look back upon it," Silvers said. "Instead of just looking at a textbook."

The disaster drill scenario called for an explosion at a nearby power plant that exposed 350 people to nuclear radiation. Victims were rushed into the safe zone and treated for their injuries.

Silvers learned in emergency situations every second matters.

"People can turn at any moment," Silvers said. "So they might seem like their fine one minute, but the next minute they might be crashing."

This year there was a radiation decontamination center that gave students a rare opportunity to work with the Broome County HAZMAT team.

"The victims come in and they kind of wash them down and really to be able to experience it," said Clinical Asst. Professor Margaret Decker. "It means a lot more than just reading about it, seeing it on the news, or sitting in a lecture hall and learning about it."

Volunteer victims were given a brief background of their injuries and some were told they experienced a mental breakdown because of the traumatic events. It serves as a reminder to all care-givers that chaos is common in victims after a disaster.

"Coming out here and really acting is going to make it more realistic," said senior nursing student Caitlin Gubala. "So unfortunately when it does happen we'll really be ready. So we get to come out here and put our all into it, and go crazy and yell and scream."

Many of the senior nurses on call remember coming to the events center during the 2011 flood as student volunteers to lend a hand to the thousands of local evacuees. They say their future career could bring them back to this very location.

"We know that it's very likely," Gubala said. "Especially those of us who will be working in the area, that if something like this does happen, we may end up back here as real nurses taking care of real patients."