CHATTANOOGA, TN - A full-scale exercise was conducted that involved area hospitals and emergency response agencies.
The scenario originated at Memorial Hospital at 2525 de Sales Ave. They had to react to a simulated lightning strike that started a fire in the oncology wing.
The fire alarm system was activated. and hospital staff had to make quick decisions on how to protect their patients. They evacuated the wing, and they needed help doing that.
Chattanooga firefighters responded along with Memorial's EMS division, Hamilton County EMS and CARTA, which provided wheelchair-compatible buses.
The ambulatory patients were escorted out first. Those patients unable to walk or whose care was dependent upon ancillary medical equipment were strapped into ParaSlydes and brought down the stairwell by emergency personnel.
In the scenario, it was deemed unsafe to bring one particular patient down in the ParaSlyde. So firefighters lowered him down the stairwell in a Stokes basket using a rope system. There were 20 mock patients involved.
All of the patients were triaged and, based on "day of" bed counts, were transported by ambulance to other participating hospitals, which included Erlanger Medical Center, Memorial North Park, HCA Parkridge Medical Center and Parkridge East.
The scenarios continued when one patient transported to Parkridge was being treated with a radioactive medication. Upon entering the ER at Parkridge, he became sick and vomited. The ER will have to be closed temporarily because of the possible exposure to radioactive contamination.
This was just one example of how area hospitals were testing their own procedures to help ensure they know what to do in the event of a real emergency of similar magnitude.
This was believed to be the first exercise of its kind anywhere in the area.
Top officials with all of the participating hospitals and emergency response agencies planned to meet afterward to evaluate the effectiveness of the disaster plan.
Other participants included Chattanooga Med Com, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department, Chattanooga State Technical Community College Nursing Program, Chattanooga Police Department and Hamilton County Emergency Management.