International Polar Year Antarctic Blog
"" ""

Safety First
International Polar Year link11:15 a.m., Dec. 1, 2007--Editor's note: Over the next few weeks, with support from the National Science Foundation, a team of University of Delaware researchers will be at work in one of the iciest, coldest, most austere places on the planet: South Pole, Antarctica. Currently stationed at the South Pole are UD researchers Thomas Gaisser, Stoyan Stoyanov, and James Roth of UD’s Bartol Research Institute, who are working on the IceCube neutrino telescope.

Their Antarctic blogs will appear on UDaily and on the Wilmington News Journal’s Delaware Online Web site through a partnership between UD and the newspaper.

At South Pole Station, we are over 2,000 miles from advanced medical care. We have a medical lab that is quite capable for such a small facility -- it has to be! We are constantly reminded, however, that serious medical emergencies will require extreme measures. Safety and accident prevention is emphasized and reviewed from the time you arrive on the continent. Today at South Pole, we had a mass casualty drill. I was tasked as an observer in the medical facility, which is referred to as “Club Med.”

Remember, the following was a simulation…

Around 4:30 p.m., the simulated alarm sounded in the new station. Teams of emergency personnel responded immediately! A man, Michael Kleist, was down at our Ice Cube Lab (ICL). He was shocked while accidentally cutting into a live cable. Twenty minutes later, as responders dealt with the emergency, a second call came in that our own Stoyan Stoyanov had fallen into an IceTop trench and received a serious head injury. He was unconscious! The complications of multiple accidents at multiple locations, not to mention being under the most extreme of conditions, was challenging for the rescue teams. Stoyan was at a very remote location that most are not immediately familiar with. The training paid off! Mike arrived at Club Med in the station only 30 minutes after onset of the incident. Stoyan was transported by snowmobile, on a backboard on a sled, to the elevated station. He arrived at medical only 23 minutes after the call. Without practice drills like the one today, South Pole Station would not be at the level of readiness that it is to handle a real emergency.

All rescuers, team members, observers, and managers met in the gym 15 minutes after the exercise. All aspects were reviewed in detail to improve on the successes and to expose any weaknesses. It was clear that every member of the exercise took their job seriously and the goal was the mutual safety of all on station.  I was impressed!

--James Roth, UD Antarctic Research Team