TRMC tests staff with disaster drill

Published 3:00 am Friday, June 3, 2016

Elissa Calhoun and Yasmine McGhee were two of the volunteer victims in the mock disaster drill held at Troy Regional Medical Center on Thursday.

Elissa Calhoun and Yasmine McGhee were two of the volunteer victims in the mock disaster drill held at Troy Regional Medical Center on Thursday.

Troy Regional Medical Center ran a disaster drill Thursday in conjunction with the Pike County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) to prepare staff for real disaster situations.

The scenario for the drill was a school bus collision involving several other vehicles, with the added caveat of one of those vehicles hitting a tank containing anhydrous ammonia, causing a small explosion. Anhydrous ammonia can also cause respiratory distress, which was listed as a symptom of one of the fictional first responders.

There were 26 patients total, all portrayed by volunteers from the community. Sixteen of the patients were released with minor injuries such as cuts, bruises, and road rash. The others weren’t as lucky, as four would have to be kept at the hospital if the situation was real, and six would have needed to be transferred. Some of their imagined injuries included bleeding in the brain, a lacerated spleen, and third degree burns.

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“The intent was to stress our staff,” said Janet Smith, chief financial officer at Troy Regional Medical Center. “We wanted to make them aware of possibilities that could happen in a real disaster.”

Smith said that the staff performed well, but that communication could always be improved on.

“That’s the point,” said Jeanna Barnes, Pike County EMA director. “To find our weaknesses so we have already pre-identified our weaknesses in the real thing.”

Barnes took the scenario to another level by dressing up the volunteers with fake blood, chicken bones, and onion flakes to replicate wounds. Barnes was also impressed with the acting of the community volunteers, as most of them were high school students and young adults.

“We had some enigmatic actors,” she said. “They really performed well.”

This was the first time that community volunteers were used in a disaster drill, but Barnes said the success of the drill could lead to using them again in the future.

Volunteer Elissa Calhoun described her experience with the drill.

“I want to be a nurse, so I was trying to soak up everything that was going on,” she said.

Barnes said that the county is fortunate not to have any incidents with mass casualties, but that the hospital staff aren’t strangers to disaster and are well prepared to handle it.

“The community should feel at ease that we’re practicing for worst-case scenarios,” she said.

Troy Regional Medical Center dealt with a real school bus accident in 2012 when a Pike County school bus flipped on the way to Goshen Elementary and Goshen High School, sending more than 40 students to Troy and Luverne hospitals.

Fortunately, there was no explosion in that real-life incident and no students were seriously injured.

Troy Regional Medical Center Chief Nursing Officer Amy Minor said that the hospital was grateful for the help of volunteers and Pike County EMA in the drill, as well as American Red Cross, who provided meals for those involved.