Twin Cities Hospital readies for disaster

By AMANDA BRANNON Daily News Staff Writer
NICEVILLE ó The man who brought him to the hospital said Samuel Katzenstein was shot in the gut and bled all the way from Pensacola to Niceville.

Actually, Katzenstein simply wore a white label on his shirt that listed the details of the injuries. No blood marred his clothing.

Katzenstein, who recently graduated from the Naval Air Technical Training Center in Pensacola and is awaiting his orders, was one of 13 mock patients who were "treated" Tuesday at Twin Cities Hospital for a disaster drill.

Fellow fake patient Jared Buetow said it was a needed exercise for both the military and civilians.

"If there was another 9-11, this is practice for being ready to take on patients if itís needed," he said.

The disaster drill, which continues today, tests Mississippi, Alabama and Northwest Florida hospitals and military teams that are part of the National Disaster Medical System.

As part of the system, Twin Cities Hospitalís role in the drill was to take care of patients who were transported from other hospitals.

In the scenario of the Lifesaver 2003 exercise, if there were substantial casualties in the militaryís overseas operations, primary hospitals could be overwhelmed. Smaller hospitals, such as Twin Cities, would need to help patients who are more stable yet still require treatment.

"We need to exercise our plan to make sure what we have works," said Vicki Chitwood, director of the emergency room at Twin Cities Hospital. "If it doesnít work, we need to fix it."

She said the hospital routinely has drills, but this was the first exercise it has had as part of the National Disaster Medical System.

Early in the afternoon, she said Twin Cities performed well in the drill.

A few things, of course, are different from reality.

During a real disaster situation, the hospital likely would have had less than the 1Ĺ-hour notification that patients were coming in. Plus the injured likely wonít be wearing neatly typed white labels listing their wounds.

In addition to Twin Cities Hospital, Healthmark Regional Medical Center in DeFuniak Springs and Sacred Heart on the Emerald Coast also are part of the National Disaster Medical System.

Chitwood said itís easy to see why Twin Cities volunteered to be part of the NDMS.

"In the community that weíre in, itís very focused around Eglin and the military," she said. "Weíve had a very good relationship with them, being right here."

Twin Cities has a total of 65 beds and nine in the emergency room.

It also is the only hospital in the area with a HAZMAT team to handle decontaminating patients.

Chitwood said next yearís area NDMS test is sure to be even bigger than this yearís, especially considering the theme that has already been set ó weapons of mass destruction.

Staff Writer Amanda Brannon can be reached at 863-1111, Ext. 446, or amandab@nwfdailynews.com