The cries of a man moaning in pain punctured the air on the grounds of Fanshawe College Wednesday morning.

But in this instance it was a case of making it feel real in order to improve training.

A mock disaster was held involving the college, London Police Service, London Fire Department and other area emergency medical services.

Students, acting as victims, were scattered across the grounds next to the Merlin House residence.

The scenario involved a pickup truck that had lost control before striking students and crashing, rupturing a container of chlorine gas and prompting a hazardous materials response.

At a separate building on campus a hospital setting allowed nursing students and residents from Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry to triage and treat patients.

Outside were members of the London Health Sciences Centre's hazardous materials team who were assessing and decontaminating patients.

Simon Dearing is acting district chief with the London Fire Department, he says, “It puts this added pressure on, of a real scene; the sounds, the smells, the effects. It lets our team practice under real-life conditions. So when the real-life event does happen, we’re prepared to handle it professionally, quickly, and with no issues.”

Brenda Henry, acting manager of Fanshawe College’s Emergency Management Office, says the event serves another purpose.

“For our advanced paramedic students, this is actually their final practical exam.”

Student Samantha Muir says responding in stressful situations is a significant part of being a paramedic. She admits, doing it while being assessed adds to that stress.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking to begin with, but once you got going it was just, like, patient after patient, assessment after assessment. And you, kind of, just forgot about everything else that was around you just concentrated on what you had to do at that time.”

Fanshawe has organized these mock disasters for 10 years, and participants say they take something away that can improve responses and outcomes every time.