It was just a year ago on Sunday, May 22, when a huge tornado struck Joplin, Mo., killing more than 160 people and causing billions of dollars in property damage. The regional medical center in Joplin was struck head-on by the EF-5 tornado, leaving the hospital unusable, with many dead and injured inside the facility.
In Central Kentucky, the power of severe weather was demonstrated earlier this year with the March 2 tornado that destroyed much of West Liberty and several other communities. Twenty-three persons died in those storms.
With those and other disasters in mind, local emergency planning and response agencies are working together to stage one of the largest mass casualty exercises ever held in Kentucky today and tomorrow.
“We are going to simulate that a Joplin-like tornado has struck the area and has severely damaged a full-service hospital,” said Tim Brandewie, coordinator for the Central Kentucky Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS). “Our response team will then work to evacuate and treat persons who have a variety of injuries in that damaged facility.”
The exercise May 16-17 will take place at the Leestown Road Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in buildings that once served as staff quarters.
“Use of these buildings will bring added realism to the scenario,” said Brandewie. “We’re very fortunate to have a strong relationship with VA and appreciate their willingness to host this exercise again. In 2008, VA hosted a similar community-wide exercise.”
The multi-modal exercise and training will involve more than two dozen local and regional agencies from across the spectrum of health and medical response agencies in central Kentucky. These include hospitals, emergency medical services, health departments, long-term health care facilities, coroner response teams, mental health agencies, VA, and the American Red Cross.
Many participants will come as partners in a 17-county health care emergency readiness organization, known as the Bluegrass Region – Kentucky Hospital Preparedness Program, or HPP. HPP is federally funded through the Department of Health and Human Services, while MMRS is funded through the Department of Homeland Security.
Pre-exercise briefings began today with hospital personnel and first responder training with stairway and multi-story structure evacuation tools and equipment. More than 100 persons will go through this rigorous training.
At the same time, there is an exhibit of the emergency response equipment and vehicles that are currently available in the region. Much of the equipment will be used during the exercise on the following day. The equipment includes:
· Mass casualty mobile response vehicles
· Mobile field hospital
· Mobile command vehicles
· Mobile communications vehicles
· Mass fatality trailer system
· Mobile mass casualty critical care ambulance
· Mobile canteen/logistics vehicle
Thursday, May 17, is the actual exercise day. Volunteer role players will act as actual live disaster victims. They will arrive on site for their instructions, make-up and costuming at 7:30 a.m. The exercise participants will arrive around 8 a.m. for registration and a safety briefing. The exercise will begin at 9 a.m. and will continue for two-and-a-half hours. All healthcare and rescue/response groups will have activities during the exercise.
After the exercise, all participants will take part in the “hotwash” – a brief discussion/evaluation of the exercise elements. A full written evaluation will be distributed to participants after comments are assessed.
More information about emergency preparedness is available from the Division of Emergency Management website at www.bereadylexington.com or www.lexingtonky.gov.
From LFUCG. Photo by John Bobel.