Multi-Company Training: Health Care Occupancies - Part I

One of the most dreaded alarms to be broadcast over our radio is the one involving a health care occupancy.


- Law enforcement (They will be required to direct traffic away from emergency equipment and hose lines, as well as performing security functions)

- Mutual aid companies (In actual event you'll need them! So integrate them into your drills)

- Emergency Medical Services to include private services in your community. One common plan utilized by hospitals is to take advantage of the compartmentalization features of the building, and relocate patients from the hazard area into another section of the building not affected and protected by fire doors. There will be some patients who will require cardiac monitoring, as well as other medical equipment carried on Advanced Life Support Units. Should this vital equipment be required to sustain the lives of patients, then the equipment will be there. In addition, should patients have to be evacuated from the hospital temporally, or transferred to another hospital, the units will be available; therefore include them in the drills.

- Local and state emergency management. These people have a wealth of resources, which will be essential to a successful operation; I would advise that you include them, at least at the local level, in all drills.

- Local Red Cross and Salvation Army. These agencies are there to not only assist with the immediate needs of the patients, they also assist with the families of the patients who will rush to the hospital upon hearing of the event through the media.

- Air Ambulances, in the event a patient(s) requires an immediate transfer to another hospital for continued critical care.

- There are other resources available to each community that could provide a service in such an event identify them and include them in you drills.

- Local media representatives: Maintain a listing of the media that reports events in your community. Having a contact person at each one of these agencies is desired. Invite them to the drill! They will be there in an actual event I can assure you, so get to know them. They will provide positive coverage of the agencies involved in the effort to be prepared for an incident. Even if they are not planning to participate/cover the drill, it is important that you notify them of the date and the time of the drill, and to verify to them that it is a drill. Otherwise, radio and television stations will begin to receive calls from the public of emergency responders surrounding the medical facility, and could report the drill as "Breaking News" which will send family members of the patients rushing to check on their loved ones.

- Do not forget the local elected officials! Have a firefighter assigned to them to keep them informed and available to the media. This will pay off at the budget hearings!

Summary:

This information presented in this article may seem like impossibility in your community, or in any community for that matter. Having emergency responders converging upon a medical center for a full dressed rehearsal may seem impossible. Let me assure you, it can be done and has been done just as I have described, because we have pulled it off on several occasions at a large medical center in our community. In the next article, we will discuss how to plan and conduct the drills in finer detail.