SPEARFISH — Emergency responders came together Saturday for one of the largest multi-agency training exercises ever organized in the Northern Black Hills.

“It’s been quite a while since we’ve been able to do an exercise of this magnitude with this many agencies,” said Carrie Donovan, supervisor for safety and quality at Regional Health Spearfish and Deadwood.

Donovan explained that in accordance with centers for Medicare and Medicaid, hospitals across the country are required to partner with local emergency management services to coordinate training exorcises like this, however Saturday’s event brought Lawrence County first responders from Spearfish police and fire departments, and Spearfish and Whitewood ambulance services, as well as Black Hills Life Flight together.

“It’s a partnership between Lawrence County Emergency Management and Regional health,” she said.

“This is our opportunity to pull all resources together and see how it’s done,” added Brian Hambek, executive director of Spearfish Ambulance Service.

Donovan said one of the most important things to train for in a major emergency situation is the chain of communication between first responders to the scene and receiving hospitals to make sure they’re able to handle the influx of patients.

“We’ve learned in other major actual events lately that EMS has to think about the receiving hospital in terms of leveling out the patients they send to what hospital.”

More than 30 volunteers, mostly students from Spearfish and Belle Fourche high schools, played victims of a staged scenario Saturday wherein a low-flying plane, represented by a large truck, had crashed into a school bus on Interstate 90.

“They’re all very enthusiastic, and they’re all just excited to be part of something in the community I think,” Donovan said.

Some of the students were playing members of the press to help responders think about the how information can travel in an emergency situation.

“So that we can exercise an aspect of an event that we don’t always get an opportunity to exercise, which is how do we communicate back to the public what’s happening,” Donovan said.

After the exorcise, responders sat down and reviewed the activity to figure out where improvements could be made.

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