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Disaster Drill Measures 'Medical Megaplex' Response

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS051003-08
Release Date: 10/3/2005 7:00:00 PM

By Chris Walz, National Naval Medical Center Public Affairs

BETHESDA, Md. (NNS) -- National Naval Medical Center (NNMC), in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center and Suburban Hospital, hosted its largest mass casualty exercise Sept. 29 to test the hospitals’ emergency response capabilities and interoperability.

The exercise emphasized a collaborative agreement that leaders from the three facilities signed at a press conference prior to the start of the exercise.

The official partnership creates a unified working group that now shares its resources to provide unparalleled care to victims of a major disaster in the National Capital Area. Hospital leaders describe the linked three facilities as a newly-created “medical megaplex.”

“The hope is to create a template that will be followed throughout the country, so we can better take care of the citizens in our neighborhoods,” said National Naval Medical Center Commander, Rear Adm. Adam Robinson.

More than 4,000 NNMC staff members participated in the drill. The disaster scenario included a virtual terrorist attack that incorporated a simulated release of the poison gas Anhydrous Ammonia. Nearly 60 staff also played the role of “victims” on scene.

“The first responders were able to address the chemical release quickly, then start separating contaminated victims and non-contaminated victims,” said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Gillette, department head for NNMC’s Emergency Preparedness Office. “They quickly set up what we call ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ zones, so they could treat the more serious patients first. They did a superb job of managing care.”

The goals of the disaster drill included practicing emergency response efforts and transportation of victims between the partnered medical facilities during a mass casualty situation. Communications was also a major focus of the exercise, as more than more than 20 emergency units participated in the drill, including local first responders from county fire and rescue services.

“It’s important to test our systems, considering everything going on in the world, especially down south with the weather-related issues,” said NNMC Assistant Fire Chief Patrick Fleming. “You need to make sure you know what resources are available to you. The Partnership is a win-win.”

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