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NNMC Conducts Mass Casualty Exercise

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS061208-28
Release Date: 12/8/2006 4:27:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Matt Bullock, National Naval Medical Center Public Affairs

BETHESDA, Md. (NNS) -- The National Naval Medical Center hosted its most extensive mass casualty exercise Dec. 7 to strengthen the National Capital Area’s emergency response and create a preparedness model for other communities.

Leaders from Bethesda Hospitals’ Emergency Preparedness Partnership — the National Naval Medical Center, National Institutes of Health Clinical Center and Suburban Hospital — said the drill is vital in strengthening the partnership’s resources and strategy.

“We recognize disasters take many forms and are unpredictable,” National Naval Medical Center’s Deputy Commander, Capt. Michael Malanoski said. “Yet, a successful response model isn’t something you can create at the time of the catastrophic event. The key to preparedness is planning and training. This collaboration and integration of resources is what Bethesda Hospitals’ Emergency Preparedness Partnership is about.”

National Naval Medical Center Commander Rear Adm. Adam Robinson Jr., said the Collaborative Multi-Agency Exercise may take place on the Navy’s grounds, but no single organization can take sole credit for the emergency alliance.

“Make no mistake, this is not a Navy effort,” Robinson said. “This is a joint effort between military, local, state and federal entities. This is an effort that’s necessary to ensure we can do what we need to when called upon to assist the people of the United States.”

Brian Gragnolati, Suburban Hospital health care system’s president, credited Navy Surgeon General Vice Adm. Donald Arthur as the inspiration for the partnership. He said Arthur circled the three hospitals on an aerial photograph and recognized the potential for a “medical megaplex.”

“I look at this event today and our partnership and wonder, ‘are we more prepared today than we were five years ago?’” Gragnolati asked. “The answer is absolutely, yes. Is it enough? I don’t know. But this is certainly a wonderful step we’re taking in the right direction.”

Strategic planning and constant evaluation is critical to developing the partnership as best as possible, according to National Institutes of Health Clinical Center Deputy Director Dr. David Henderson. He said the mass casualty exercise is the most efficient way for the partnership to test current emergency response plans and develop new ones.

“We had to put together a team and go through a formal strategic planning process that helped us set priorities for the partnership’s resources and establish a timeline against which we can measure our performance and progress,” Henderson said. “Drills such as this one afford us the opportunity to define the partnership’s parameters and its possibilities with much more precision than we can while sitting in a conference room.”

“We know in natural disasters, we have to have a collaborative effort in order to treat the needs of the population,” Robinson said. “We need to ensure we have a solid partnership and we achieve that with exercises such as this one.”

Joan Kleinman, Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen’s district director, said she believes the partnership will be the catalyst for other U.S. communities. She said she appreciates the humbleness of each medical facility involved.

“Bethesda is an incredible place to have three world-class health and research institutions,” Kleinman said. “And what makes these institutions even more incredible is their recognition that together, they can do so much more than each of them can do independently. This partnership is an unmatched model of flexible, effective and efficient emergency preparedness for communities nationwide.”

Gragnolati said the partnership has great potential in helping other American districts implement their own emergency-response plan.

“What happened 65 years ago at Pearl Harbor and five years ago on Sept. 11 reinforces the fact that we are vulnerable and we need to better prepared,” Gragnolati said. “As painful as [those events] were, the unprecedented devastation and loss of life gave us a much needed awakening.”



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