CLARKSVILLE — When an emergency situation occurs, it very often isn't just one agency that responds to the call for assistance. That's why some Southern Indiana departments are strengthening their skills by training together on unique situations.

Wednesday, five departments participated in a mock multi-car crash with multiple victims — Clarksville Fire and Police departments, Sellersburg Volunteer Fire Department, Yellow EMS and Air Methods, a medical helicopter service.

In the parking lot of the Clarksville Fire Department, actors from Yellow EMS' EMT class played the roles of 20 people injured in a four-car crash. Painted with fake blood, the actors were staged in and around the four cars, which were donated for the training by Wheeler's.

"A vehicle crash like this is going to require multiple fire departments as far as manpower issues," Clarksville Fire Chief Brandon Skaggs said. "For us, this gives us an opportunity to actually work together as different agencies.

"Every agency has a little bit different tactic, a little bit different strategy and with neighboring departments and the EMS, we can try to work together to hone in those skills."

Skaggs said depending on the type of emergency, whether it be crime related, fire or others, is what dictates which agency takes over as command. In this case, EMS and fire departments would be in control of the scene.

"Another aspect we look at is where are we going to transport 20 patients? What hospitals can handle that?" Skaggs said. "And how are we going to handle that if they can only take five at Clark Memorial or two or three at Floyd or several at U of L."

In a scene this large and complex, he said, the first steps are scene safety and stabilization, and starting triage to determine where help is needed.

"That's how you identify who needs what level of care in the most appropriate time frame," Skaggs said.

The actors played the parts of people with varying injuries or even death — at the scene. They include things like one actor becoming argumentative with a firefighter because he was concerned that his friend was still trapped in the car.

To rescue some of the "injured," firefighters had to break the car window and door to extract them from the car.

"Our firefighters, they knew they were going to be going to an accident scene but they didn't know what types of injuries, how many injuries," Skaggs said. "So they had to deal with that on the fly and I think it worked out really well."

He said the last time departments got together for such a training was several years ago; although they train together on other things, such as hazmat situation, more often.

Skaggs said he hopes the groups can meet quarterly for more hands-on exercises, to help sharpen their skills as first responders to new situations, such as the rare four-car crash with 20 injured.

"I think it went great," he said. "I was glad just to see the different agencies come together and actually physically work together instead of [at] a tabletop.

"So I'm very pleased; the feedback I got from my crew they thought it was very beneficial and they were glad it was that kind of training."

Aprile Rickert is the crime and courts reporter at the News and Tribune. Contact her via email at aprile.rickert@newsandtribune.com or by phone at 812-206-2115. Follow her on Twitter: @Aperoll27.