Hospitals Prepare for the Worst
December 02, 2008
Hospitals prepare for the worst
Emergency drill Thursday practices evacuations, coordination
By Heath Urie (Contact)
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Photo by Cliff Grassmick
Kelley Lynch plays the role of a patient being evacuated from Boulder Community Hospital by hospital staff members (from left) Edgar Portillo, Susan Rosenthal, Sara Snyder and Jennifer Bowan during an emergency preparedness drill Thursday.
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Dozens of volunteers decided to take on serious illnesses and injuries Thursday, in the name of aiding disaster preparedness at Boulder County hospitals.
The volunteers were each assigned specific ailments to act out for emergency workers and hospital staffers at Boulder Community Hospital and Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville, which each practiced annual emergency drills during the afternoon.
The hospitals worked in tandem simulating two disasters: Boulder Community was flooded, with impassable entrances and useless elevators; Avista Adventist was ripped open by a tornado.
Both hospitals needed to be evacuated, under the guidelines of the drills, sending patients to Longmont United Hospital and Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center in Lafayette, which practiced taking in evacuated patients.
"It allows us to do a good test of our systems," said Rich Sheehan, spokesman for Boulder Community. "We want to make this as realistic as possible."
During the drills in Boulder, hospital staff worked from a makeshift command center -- aided by the Boulder County's Office of Emergency Management -- to coordinate the removal of patients and the transfer of critical records.
Boulder resident Karen Herman, 53, volunteered to play the role of a 300-pound patient with heart failure and two knee replacements. She wore a neck tag describing her condition, and although coordinators didn't go so far as to weigh the diminutive patient down, paramedics used a special wheelchair to maneuver her downstairs.
"It sounded like fun," she said after being loaded into an ambulance. "They need to practice these things."
Darryl Brown, head of Boulder's cardiac and respiratory department, swapped his stethoscope for a hand-held radio and directed ambulance traffic during the drill. In the event of a real emergency, he said, even doctors and surgeons would be called upon to help move patients safely.
"Because this could be after hours or happen on a weekend, you never know who the available people will be," Brown said.
Most hospitals are required to perform annual disaster training to maintain professional accreditations or certifications.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Heath Urie at 303-473-1328 or email@example.com.