A mere five days before the tornado struck down in Oklahoma, local hospital Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center (TLRMC) participated in a regional drill to prepare for just such an occasion.
“The events that happened in Oklahoma, particularly with Moore Medical Center, just show why you have to prepare,” said TLRMC Director of Planning and Marketing Bill Oldham.
Alongside hospitals from eight surrounding counties, TLRMC took part in the Region 5 Disaster Drill on Wednesday, May 15, which, according to Oldham, is “designed to find our strengths and weaknesses.”
The drill, which started at 11 a.m. and ended around 2 p.m., required hospital employees to carry out procedures as though an F3 tornado had touched down in the region on the morning of May 15.
The details of the simulation are delivered to hospital employees in the facility’s Incident Command Center (ICC). The ICC is a central location, overseen by TLRMC CEO Wayne Meriwether, in which hospital employees may monitor the situation, patients, resources, and external communication.
According to hospital employee Patrick Decker, TLRMC was one of the few hospitals in the region to not actually have been hit by the tornado in the simulation, so the primary focus for TLRMC employees in the drill is to effectively respond to the needs of other regional hospitals.
For example, fatalities and or patients with injuries from other regional hospitals that have either been damaged or filled with patients, might have to be transported to TLRMC to receive care in such an emergency. In the case of the simulation, TLRMC received fifteen patients from other counties for whom it had to provide medical care.
Even communication with the media played an important role in the drill. Members of the local press were “injected” into the simulation at 12:30 p.m., at which point, Oldham said he would, in a real disaster, present either a written or verbal statement.
“Anytime there’s anything like this for real, communication is key,” Oldham said.
Oldham said TLRMC is looking into opening a Twitter account specifically for use in times of emergency, as well as provide updates via Facebook, e-mail, and/or text messaging.
The drill presented a unique challenge for hospital employees. TLRMC had to simultaneously carry out business as usual while also carrying out its disaster procedures; thus, the drill could not be 100 percent realistic.
However, Oldham said, while it is impossible to prepare for every emergency scenario, TLRMC’s disaster procedures help prepare for whatever type of situation it may encounter.
“It’s kind of a cliche,” Oldham said. “Every time you see a disaster at a hospital, you hear somebody say, ‘This is the kind of thing we train for.’ …We practice all the time for these scenarios.”