hazmat drill 2014 001tyjuana harmon

Cutline: Tina Harmon dons protective clothing in a hazardous materials exposure drill at RSMH

Any day in the Emergency Room can include minor and major emergencies, but when something extraordinary happens in the community, hospital team members must be prepared to call on specialized training to keep patients safe.  

"Because we don't often treat patients who have been exposed to hazardous materials," said Dr. Susan McAndrews, Vice President and Administrator at Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital, "we need to hold drills in order to practice our procedures. It is critical that our skills stay sharp for that rare day when something unexpected does happen."

Riverside Shore Memorial, in cooperation with Riverside Health System's Emergency Management Team, staged a mock decontamination exercise to practice treating patients who had been "exposed" to a hazardous material.

No actual chemicals were used in the simulation. Normal operations in the Emergency Room were not affected, and extra team members were brought in ahead of time to care for the ER's actual patients who did not participate. 

In this staged simulation, Riverside team members were drilled on how to best treat the affected hazmat patients and how to protect those unaffected patients already in the emergency room.  Volunteers who were posing as patients were happy to be hosed down on a hot day in a decontamination tent set up in the parking lot.

"We have invested in hazmat clothing and a sophisticated decontamination tent and scrubbing system. During this drill, we set up all of our equipment to test it. We also had our team members gear up in hazmat suits with refresher training on how to ensure that there is no cross-contamination between team members and patients. This way, if a real event happens, we are ready. It's our job to make the drill seem real so that we can be prepared to protect our patients and our community," said McAndrews.

Published: July 17, 2014