Students from Rayville High School and Delta Community College pose as victims during an emergency preparedness drill.
Emergency drill helps first responders learn
Richardson Medical Center, along with the Richland Parish Sheriff’s Office, Rayville Police Department, Northeast La Ambulance Service, Rayville High School, Delta Community College Nursing Students,and Mike Brame with ESF8 conducted an emergency preparedness drill that involved more than 100 staff members and emergency responders from the community on Aug. 28.
Providing care to patients during an emergency or disaster event is dependent upon having an effective response. Natural and man-made disasters can strain the capacity of healthcare facilities, disrupt care and treatment, and create potentially life-threatening situations.
“We want to fail,” Richardson Medical Center Administrator James Barrett told participants during training about the drill. “That is how we will learn what we need to improve.”
While the statement surprised participants, it also realigned their thoughts about the drill. Hearing that the organization expected problems to occur during the drill, staff understood that the exercise was not about getting everything “right” but identifying what did not go as expected. Failures that occur during drills help an organization identify gaps in emergency procedures and provide the opportunity to improve processes prior to an actual emergency.
The scenario was based on a simulated mass-casualty event that occurred in Rayville at 10 p.m. on a Friday night. Hospital staff had to be notified and given appropriate time to respond as they would in a live scenario.
Richardson Medical Center’s exercise had four main goals:
• Test how well the hospital can continue to provide care during an emergency.
• Identify gaps in communications and information flow throughout the hospital.
• Assess the ability of executive leadership to make timely decisions.
• Evaluate staff performance in a crisis environment.
“Victims” were Delta Community College nursing students and Rayville High School students acting as patients, or family members of patients, who came to the hospital for treatment. Twenty-six “victims” were made up to look injured; simulated trauma included three expired victims, five critical life threats, seven intermediate life threats and 11 walking wounded. Some patients were able to speak, while others were unconscious and unable to communicate with the staff.
While hospital staff knew a drill would take place that day, they were not given specifics. Signs had been posted to alert patients that a drill was taking place. The hospital incident command center was activated at the start of the exercise and staffed by RMC executive leadership throughout the drill.
The drill was partly designed to test staff response to patient surge. All 26 patients arrived at the ED within minutes of each other by a variety of transportation means. The patients were triaged and tagged red, green, black, or yellow (according to severity) then routed to the department allocated by color.
Next came an onslaught of concerned family members; the rush of family members arrived within a 10-minute period. While the hospital previously performed hospital drills, this drill was the first time the hospital included volunteers posing as family members arriving at the hospital, needing staff attention. Family members were escorted to the family assistance center to await information on their loved ones.
The drill ended at 11 a.m., 60 minutes after it began, with an announcement that the drill was complete. A detailed debriefing took place from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. The simulated victims and families were asked for feedback on what went well and what could be improved; evaluators reported their observations. The participants were energized by the experience, eager to share what went well, and willing to offer suggestions for improved strategies.
Much of the emergency response went smoothly; the staff stated that they learned a lot but also acknowledged that the organization could improve its response in some areas.
The hospital effectively managed patients and resources during the drill.
Richardson Medical Center would like to thank each organization and volunteer that assisted in making this a realistic drill. Training becomes invaluable, when every second counts.