Friday, December 08, 2006

Mass casualty drill puts Backus to the test

A simulated roof collapse at Dodd Stadium Dec. 5 provided a stern test for Backus Hospital’s Emergency Management Plan.

Approximately 30 people were “injured” in the incident – caused by excessive snow – and all needed to be transported by ambulance to Backus. Actors, mostly EMT and nursing students, were physically taken to Backus for treatment of a wide range of injuries, many of them serious.

The mass casualty scenario began around 6:30 p.m., when an influx of patients arrived in the newly-renovated Emergency Department, where they were triaged and in some cases taken to appropriate areas of the hospital, including the Operating Room and Diagnostic Imaging.

Nursing Supervisor Nancy Giambra, in consultation with the Administrator on call, initially called for a partial “Plan D” alert, and later upgraded it to a full-fledged alert. She established a command center in the auditorium where decisions were made on how to handle the victims, what floors to place them on and how to continue to take care of an already full house of patients.
Nick Senuta, EMS Coordinator at Backus, said there were several significant aspects to this disaster drill:
    ? It occurred on second shift when staffing levels are typically lighter than during the day.
    ? It occurred when a nearly full house of patients was anticipated.
    ? The drill provided an opportunity to physically move mock patients to other areas of the hospital to establish equipment and manpower needs.
    ? To test staff call back procedures, the scenario evolved to where off-duty staff were being called at home to see if they could come in, and when issues prevented staff from being available, such as daycare, officials in the command center discussed what would need to be done to provide daycare if needed. E-mails were sent to staff updating them on the incident as it progressed, and a call center was set up for family members to inquire about loved ones.
    ? It was a chance to test communications between departments within the hospital, and with community partners such as ambulance and fire crews.
    ? Most importantly, the drill helped evaluate patient management activities including patient triage, identification, registration and tracking.

Mr. Senuta said the drill, designed to overwhelm the hospital, was a success, and much was learned. A briefing was held afterwards in which actions steps were developed, including more education for staff on the hospital’s emergency management plan, ideas to better utilize the command center structure outlined in the plan and how to better streamline the triage and patient identification processes.

In addition to Emergency Department staff, other departments involved in the drill included Security, ESD and others. Organized by Fred K. Potter, past fire chief in Bozrah and Fire Captain at the Bradley International Airport Fire Department in Windsor Locks, the exercise also involved fire and ambulance personnel from the region.

“I want to thank everyone involved in this drill – the EMS community, the actors and especially our staff,” Mr. Senuta said. “It’s not easy to concentrate on a drill when you are taking care of real patients at the same time, but that’s the nature of a disaster. It’s not just going to occur between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., on a day when there are plenty of beds and staff available. While these kinds of drills might seem like a nuisance, it is very important that we take them seriously so that when a real event occurs, we are prepared.”