1. hirundine
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    hirundine Member

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    Questions about Army field medical facilities

    Discussion in 'Research' started by hirundine, Aug 23, 2016.

    I hope someone can help me with this.

    In my novel, a unit of army guys is assigned to assist a team of scientists during a volcanic eruption. It's set in modern times and they are based in a university hall of residence (that was the best place the scientists could find to monitor the volcano from). Over the course of several days there is a bunch of smaller (but still pretty big) eruptions, followed by one big eruption lasting several hours - think on the scale of Krakatoa or Pinatubo. The army unit's mission is to assist with keeping the scientists safe (e.g. from looters and the like), helping them get to and from observation sites, helping them evacuate when the time comes, and helping to keep the building from collapsing if they are unable to evacuate. As it turns out, their escape route is cut off and they are unable to leave. As mains electricity is cut off due to the eruption, they are left entirely reliant on generators to provide power (the army were organised enough to bring these, because, well, it's the army).

    The army guys also set up some sort of field medical facility, which is what I have questions about. My questions are:

    What sort of medical facilities would the army be able to set up and run under these conditions?

    Inside the building, or in some sort of tent or whatever? (I'm already thinking inside because of heavy ashfall, but I thought I'd better ask in case somebody more knowledgeable has better information).

    Most importantly, what level of care would they be able to provide, and what sort/severity of injuries would they be able to treat in this scenario?

    I especially need an answer for that last question, because one of my characters sustains serious injuries in a fall from the roof (while shovelling off the ash to prevent the roof from collapsing), which he dies from, and I need to know what if anything they would potentially be able to do for him in order to make the death scene believable.

    I hope that was clear enough. Thanks for any help you can give.
     
  2. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    You have serious plausibility issues here. Doubly Multiply so if you want a Krakatoa-scale eruption.

    1/ Army guys are usually known as soldiers...

    2/ Where is this volcano? Is there really a big enough university close enough to have a usable hall of residence?

    3/ How much notice did everybody have about the eruption? Current science is NOT MUCH...and this is important because, in order for the scientists to get there in time to monitor it, they would need pretty much INSTANT response...and you'd have to be talking about an army rapid response force - and they're more known for being able to handle a firefight than set up a medical facility.

    4/ If the ash is falling fast enough to endanger the integrity of the roof, it'll sure as hell endanger the integrity of the guy shovelling it off...and he won't be able to keep up with it anyway.

    5/ "Keeping the building from collapsing if they are unable to evacuate..."? If it's raining ash fast enough to stop you running, it's raining ash fast enough to collapse any building.
     
  3. hirundine
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    hirundine Member

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    I see I haven't been clear enough.

    It's a real volcano and there are TWO big enough universities in a city about 15-20 miles away. Since I'm basing the events of the novel more on Pinatubo, and my research into my specific volcano's past history, that is definitely far enough away to be survivable, as long as they can keep the roof clear enough.

    Most of the novel actually takes place during the warning period. This period of sustained escalating unrest lasts about 2/12 months, and research into real-life eruptions suggests that this is entirely plausible. Also, he scientists have been monitoring and investigating intermittent unrest for several weeks before that. The actual eruption only happens in the last few chapters. The authorities and the army etc would have had enough warning to come up with some sort of plan.

    There are several guys shovelling the roof. Not just the one who falls off.

    They aren't cut off by the ash. They are cut off by flooding that has been exacerbated and partly caused by the river being clogged with ash (I knew I'd forget something important).

    I've done A LOT of research into the volcano side of things. It's the army bit I'm looking for information about.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2016
  4. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    The Army would not rely solely on trucks to get out of a sticky situation, so you could have a few Chinooks on standby to pull everyone out of the immediate 'hotzone'. Bypassing the flood problem entirely. Also I think it would take more than ash to 'dam' up a river of substantial size, large rocks and cinders would be far more likely. Also a substantial lava flow could cause a flood as well, provided it was directly into the river. A quick and dirty medical team could treat very little in the way of life threatening injuries. At best they could save a patient if they lose a limb or a semi-major gunshot wound, but severe bodily or head trauma gets real sketchy and they would be ill equipped. Time is a factor on more serious injuries, and getting the patient to a fully equipped facility as soon as possible raises the chances of survival considerably. Also I doubt the military would only allow ground vehicles for such a situation, as the GTFO (Get the fuck out) maneuver will be a priority to save manpower and minimize the risk. But for the argument of saving the injured in such a scenario, both flying and driving come with risks. When lives are on the line time is the key factor, and driving is not going to be the best solution in racing a clock, seeing as most military trucks are not as fast as a big ass helicopter is.

    Ultimately it is up to you on how/why you would doom your characters based upon all the factors, parameters, limitations. Good luck, be a shame to have a guy lose his life over the fact that he got melted in half by molten rock. :p
     
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  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    You can't fly anything in an ash fall. It damages the engines, too risky. Might be able to fly in between eruptions but landing would be a bitch in a helicopter because the blades stir up the ash on the ground. I have personal experience being under Mt St Helen's ash fall in Eastern WA.

    Back to the hospital, you are in luck. You can write any level of care you want. The army field hospitals are incredibly sophisticated these days, but the military might opt for a smaller set up.

    Think how many medical personnel are going to be deployed here. If it is a small detachment, you're not going to see a Mash Unit. You might only have corpsmen, in which case they wouldn't have more than stopping the blood flow, suturing, splinting or casting a broken bone, that sort of basic care. But you could also have a trauma surgeon and OR staff if you wanted. It would still be plausible. Base your trauma unit on the size of the deployment.
     
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  6. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    @GingerCoffee Well you have doomed those poor fools, as you are most correct on air evac. Well done. Cause even with a quick popup surgical theater, magma tends to not be too picky. Although with the skin of their ass and a lot of luck, they could drive down the side of a volcano. But setting up an elaborate medical facility would be a negligent, and a waste of resources. Then again if money is no object, they can afford to have such things be senselessly burned up. Chances of survival are in the kiss your ass goodbye percentile, unless they can get the hell out of dodge well before it all goes to hell.

    I haven't bothered to ask my brother-inlaw on this, even though he is a medic in the Rangers. :p Figured it would be a simple explanation to a bizarre situation. More than likely they would contract out the 'security' detail if they must have one. That is if the military would have any stake in being present at an active volcano site.
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Magma is not the problem, though it tends to be the drama in volcano movies and stories. Ash is the more serious problem, and what is called a nuée ardente aka pyroclastic flow. That is the heat and gas explosion which rolls down the volcano flanks and kills more people than magma in volcanic events. But the event responsible for the most deaths is a lahar, that's the hot ash and mud flow that races down the volcano flanks, sometimes without an accompanying eruption.
     
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  8. hirundine
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    hirundine Member

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    Thanks for the help everyone, I have the information I need.

    And I'd like to add, for the record, that the flood is actually not caused by the volcano (although it is exacerbated by it) - I needed a plausible reason why they couldn't evacuate and the novel happens to be set at a time of year when storms and heavy rain are common in the region. It stops raining on the city before the main eruption starts, but of course, floodwater takes time to move downstream.
     
  9. GingerCoffee
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    You can easily add a lahar to your flood scenario.
     

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