Preparing for emergencies

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Last Thursday, St. John's Hospital-Cassville staff members had the opportunity to test their emergency preparedness skills during a disaster drill held at the local facility.

"I think it went really well," said Michelle Parker, St. John's Hospital West Region emergency preparedness coordinator. "You always have a few flaws, but it is a learning experience.

"During a learning experience you expect to have some things that don't go so great," said Parker. "That is how you learn what you want to do in an actual disaster."

Hospital staff members were forced to care for nearly a dozen students who were injured in two motor vehicle accidents. One scenario involved students who were riding on a bus that hydroplaned and crashed into gas pumps at a local service station, and the other scenario involved students who were riding in a car that drove into a flooded area.

When the students began arriving at the hospital on foot and by ambulance, the staff members were required to assess their injuries and move them into an already crowded emergency room. Staff members were also required to set up a hazmat decontamination pod for some of the students who came into contact with hazardous chemicals.

In addition to caring for the injured, staff members met with family members and provided updates on the injured students. Portrayed by students, the family members were asked to stay in the hospital chapel to receive updates throughout the drill.

"We are working to get your loved ones the best care, and when the time is right, we will connect you with them," Chaplain Thomas Gripka told the family members during the drill. "We will update you at least every 15 minutes. That update could just be that they are still doing fine, but we will keep you informed."

Chris Hoge, St. John's speech pathologist and director of rehabilitative services, acted as the public information officer during the drill. Hoge explained that during an actual disaster drill, members of the public will be directed to check in at a command center that will be established at either the hospital administrative offices or the old St. John's clinic, which are both located west of the hospital.

"I hope that the staff members learned how important it is to be prepared for a disaster," said Parker. "I hope they work to become better prepared by doing drills and other smaller follow-up exercises and pursuing other educational opportunities available to them."

According to Parker, St. John's Hospital-Cassville completes two large scale disaster drills each year and several small scale drills. Night shift staff members take part in table top exercises, which allows them to become better prepared in an environment that does not require the participation of outside sources.

The Cassville Police Department, Barry County Sheriff's Department and Cox Ambulance Service participated in the drill on Sept. 29. Members of the Cassville High School mask and gavel club portrayed student victims and family members during the drill.

Student volunteers included: Misti Horton, Chelsey Popanz, Emily Cole, Marshall Henson, Frances Tillery, Chris Hinebaugh, Krissy Albert, December Karr, Bridget Diepenbrock and Paige Turner, family members; Jordan Guss, photographer; and Adrianna Fine, Colby Lakey, Abbi Marcano, Dillon Henson, Reba Dupont, Kim Albert, Dallas Schnedler, Juan Dove, Julie Shoemaker, Kasey Durm and Tyler Hill, victims.

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