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Mock-disaster exercise planned April 19

Published: April 18, 2012 4:00 AM

On April 19, Union Hospital in Dover will participate in a disaster exercise conducted by the Northeast Central Ohio Regional Disaster Planning Consortium.

Disaster exercises or mock drills are held annually to test the plans and response times of participating hospitals and emergency management agencies. This year's exercise will stage a tornado sweeping through 13 surrounding counties with 53 agencies participating.

The Northeast Central Ohio regional hospitals annually assess the most likely cause for disaster in this region and the 2010 study named tornados as the number one concern.

"Tornados often rise to the top of the list because of their probability in this region, their ability for destruction, and their unpredictability," said Sarah Metzger, NECO Region 5 hospitals coordinator and administrative director of the Akron Regional Hospital Association. "In looking at the most recent storms in the Midwest and South, we are taking proactive steps to ensure our hospitals are prepared for an event, such as what happened in Joplin, Mo."

Leadership and key staff from St. John's Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Mo., who experienced the destruction and devastation caused by a tornado have shared some of the things they learned after responding to such a catastrophic incident. They noted huge challenges in communicating with partner agencies and emergency medical services, because radio towers were destroyed. It was also apparent that there were not enough supplies and resources given the surge of patients who needed care. They went through four days worth of supplies in four hours.

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"The NECO region is taking these lessons and testing our capability to meet these types of challenges in the hopes that our hospitals will continue to uncover areas for change and improvement in the safe environment of an exercise, when no patient lives are at risk," said Metzger.

During the exercise, each agency is expected to establish the Incident Command System as it normally would in a large-scale disaster. Additional goals and objectives that will be tested in this exercise include:

Sharing initial and ongoing incident information, which includes communication from the hospitals to appropriate agencies and resource allocation;

Updating each county Emergency Management Agency on availability of beds and the status of the hospitals in their county; and

Testing some hospital's medical evacuation plans, which include sheltering and securing appropriate transportation for patients.

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