Statewide Emergency Drill

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback


As we have seen across America and in our own state a huge emergency whether natural or man-made can cause enormous drains on local medical facilities.

All across Arkansas today hospitals found out if they're ready for an epic scale public health crisis.

Bio-terror attacks, bus crashes, targeted school children and breakdowns in electricity and communications.

It sounds like a 21st century movie...

But it could happen.

So, are the hospitals in Arkansas prepared for worst - case scenarios?

Stepping away from his command post at NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital, Mark Ward explained how the practical part of the exercise became theoretical. Going from intense activity to stretching out over several days.

"Then it goes into a table top exercise that escalates into a 96 hour period to see what our capabilities are during the next 4 days."

Across town at St. Bernard's, victims of the mock bus wreck had been processed in and attention had turned to dealing with people exposed or possibly exposed to Anthrax.

At St. Bernard's they have 2 built-in rooms dedicated to decontamination so they don't have to set up temporary tents and facilities outside.

They have a stretcher line so patients can be decontaminated on backboards. They also have a walk in shower for those patients who come in that have been exposed but are still ambulatory.

Emergency room director Tracy Tucker says these drills help keep St. Bernard's employees ready for the real thing.

"This is a very good practice for everyone and it lets us know what things we do well and what things we need to work on. So in the event of a real disaster we would be prepared to take care of it."

This was the first state-wide emergency drill with over 80 hospitals and other emergency services dealing with the same scenarios.

Mark Ward, NEA Baptist, "That's what drills are designed for is to test our capabilities under stress. What we have is a lot of scenarios being thrown at us right now that are testing those capabilities."

Capabilities like victims from a bus wreck that didn't speak English.

Tracy Tucker, "In addition to treating their health concerns we had to find translators to come in and help us get medical histories and translate care to those victims."

This was not a pass-fail kind of exercise.

The lessons learned today will help hospitals change plans for what may be real, tomorrow.

Ward, "And we will update those, change those to fit what needs to be done to better accommodate our patients as they come through in situations like this. "

Today's exercise was coordinated with the Arkansas Department of Health, local hospitals and emergency services and interacted with several federal agencies as well.

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