LAKE SUCCESS, NY – A bomb explodes during a high school football championship game, leaving hundreds dead and thousands injured, frantically seeking emergency care. The police suspect the bomb was “dirty,” containing lethal chemicals and radioactive material. The question is: is your hospital ready?
In the wake of the April 15th Boston Marathon bombing, many hospital officials from around the country are asking themselves that very question. The North Shore-LIJ Health System recently hosted a long-planned emergency drill that played out this very situation. With representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s (FEMA) Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) and a swarm of news media watching, about 20 clinicians and students participated in simulated exercises aimed at educating them on how to receive patients injured in a mass-casualty situation.
“We are a terrorist target in New York," said Anthony Egan, security and emergency training manager at North Shore-LIJ’s Center for Emergency Medical Services. "We have to prepare for man-made events as well as natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy.”
During the exercise, students divided into groups. In some cases, the “victims” had survived an IED (Improvised Explosive Devise); others dealt with the aftermath of chemical warfare, such as: choking, blisters or nerve agents.
Garbed in yellow hazmat suits, students practiced triaging their victims, leading them into decontamination areas, and carefully showering and cleaning them to remove contaminants. The course depicted real-life aftermath, where some victims “walked to the hospital” themselves; others arrived by ambulance. All the while, students learned the physical and psychological demands of wearing personal protective equipment during the training.
“This program is a result of the employees of North Shore-LIJ wanting to be certified to teach the course themselves,” said Clayton Calkins, training specialist for the CDP in Anniston, Alabama. “This drill was the culmination of two years of planning, and hopefully it leads to more healthcare systems doing the same.”
FEMA’s CDP opened its doors in Alabama in June 1998 as a training center for the nation’s emergency responders. Its mission is to train emergency response providers in the areas of preparedness, protection and response. The North Shore-LIJ Health System, which has been providing emergency preparedness training since before the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, is the first non-government organization working with FEMA in providing this training.
To learn more about North Shore-LIJ’s Center for EMS, go to: www.northshorelij.com/hospitals/location/center-for-emergency-medical-services
Watch North Shore-LIJ emergency management staff and FEMA train first responders in this scenario: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwV1qGcudqw