Everyone hopes it will never happen, but emergency responders train relentlessly to make sure they are prepared for an incident which produces mass casualties. Self Regional Medical Center and Greenwood County on Wednesday joined four other medical centers and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control in a regional mock disaster drill which culminated three years of training.
Self Regional Medical Center and DEC were joined in the training by AnMed Health Medical Center in Anderson, Oconee Medical Center in Oconee, Abbeville Area Medical Center in Abbeville and Greenville Health System in Laurens, Greenwood County Emergency Preparedness Department, Greenwood County Coroner Sonny Cox, Greenwood County EMS and ham radio operators, among other emergency response organizations. The drill and training were conducted by EnviroSafe. The North Carolina-based company has nearly two decades of experience in emergency response training and evaluation.
Those participating in Wednesday’s drill have been preparing for three years, according to Benjamin Ross, DHEC’s Upstate region public health preparedness director.
“This is the culmination of three years of training for all of us,” Ross said. “This is part of Center for Disease Control program for hospitals to prepare for, respond to and recover from a mass casualty incident.”
The process began with all hazards preparedness planning by key personnel at hospitals across the 11-county Upstate region. In 2013, hospitals participated in a tabletop exercise, which is essentially a facilitated discussion about how an emergency situation would be handled. Hospitals take the feedback from the tabletop exercise and make improvements to their plans prior to the final drill.
Wednesday’s scenario involved the theft of radioactive material by a satellite terrorist cell. The thieves made away with the radioactive material, but were then involved in a multi-vehicle collision in the Honea Path area, causing the radiation from the material to spread. “Patients” had to be decontaminated prior to entering the hospital to receive treatment. EnviroSafe staff evaluate the response from everyone involved and prepare an after-action report. Hospitals then take that report and make improvements to their planning and training.
“The idea is not to see how well we’ve done,” Ross said. “The idea is to see where we need to improve then make the necessary changes to planning and training to improve in those areas.”