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Medical journal publishes review of bridge response

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Tending to rescuers
Rescue workers tend to divers in the water searching through wreckage at the section of the I-35W bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis on Aug. 1, 2007.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

(AP) - While emergency responders have been praised for the way they rescued victims of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, a review published in a medical journal says several things could be improved in response to future disasters.

      The review, published in a special edition of Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, was written by seven local authors, including Dr. John Hick, assistant medical director of EMS services at Hennepin County Medical Center.

      The article notes several issues.

      First off, the article says, first-responders didn't use flotation devices to enter the river after the Aug. 1, 2007 collapse. Local ambulances now carry such devices.

      In addition, ambulance crews didn't have enough neck collars and splints to secure patients for transport. Rescuers also didn't have enough morphine for the injured.

      And, while civilian rescuers were helpful in the first 15 minutes, they later slowed down rescuers who had to account for their safety. The article said pickup trucks were effective, but not ideal, for moving moderately injured patients from the river basin.

      Also, most rescuers didn't tell dispatchers when their ambulances arrived at the scene. And most also didn't identify their destination hospitals, creating confusion over the number and whereabouts of victims.

      And afterward, many rescuers were overwhelmed and experienced mental health problems.

      "Symptoms of insomnia, anorexia, hypervigilance, irritability, and nightmares were experienced by many responders following the incident," the study noted, "(including the authors)."

      The collapse killed 13 people and injured about 130.

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      Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com

             (Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)