Gerber Memorial staff tests skills, preparedness with safety drill
FREMONT– With the goal of helping medical and emergency professionals prepare for a potential mass casualty situation, Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial partnered with PRIDE of Newaygo County on July 30 in a community-wide exercise.
“Based in a large agricultural community and surrounded by many large industrial plants that work with all types of chemicals, our medical professionals prepared for a worst-case scenario at a local manufacturing facility. While there has not been an incident of this magnitude, the potential exists and our community should know that Spectrum Health is ready,” said Amanda Lutz, MPH, emergency preparedness specialist at Gerber Memorial.
Registration staff, emergency department, facilities, security, hospital supervision, Hospital Emergency Response Team (HERT) and emergency preparedness staff all prepared for a worst-case scenario at a local manufacturing facility.
In this fictional simulation, a forklift driver punctured a crate containing an unknown chemical substance. Students who volunteered to act as casualties on Tuesday were assigned a “victim role,” health status and even injury props, to help bring the scenario to life. They then went through the process of being transported via ambulance and treated at the hospital.
“In real life, a hospital must be trained to handle a mass casualty while also dealing with other civilians who may need to be treated for day-to-day injuries. So, several students were assigned to play the role of patients who were injured outside of the mass casualty incident as well,” Lutz said.
Preparation is a critical part of being able to effectively handle a mass casualty incident, Lutz said, adding that exercising different scenarios helps Gerber Memorial prepare for a potential incident – natural or human-caused – that may impact the hospital or community.
Not only did the drill provide the Emergency Department with an added component to a mass casualty incident but it allowed Gerber Memorial to engage its H.E.R.T. These team members are trained to protect the hospital, patients and their families, and employees in the event of a disaster in the community. Made up of Gerber Memorial staff who receive additional training, HERT team members respond to threats from chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive materials. The HERT team operates an emergency treatment area as hospital first receivers.
By Lutz’s estimate, the exercise went well.
All participating staff communicated effectively and adjusted to gaps that came up, she noted.
“We purposefully chose this scenario and went into the exercise knowing we were going to identify some gaps and areas for improvement and we did just that,” she said. “It’s best to work through and identify these areas for improvement during an exercise rather than in a real-life incident. There is always potential for improvement.”
As an accredited facility, Gerber Memorial is also required to complete exercises that test its emergency department on patient surge. Lutz said Gerber Memorial does more than what its accreditation requires so it can better serve the community.
Exercise simulates injuries from chemical exposure; local volunteers play patients