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June 2012
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Murray disaster drill weighs patient tracking

BY BECCA SCHIMMELrschimmel@paducahsun.com

MURRAY - Police, firefighters and other emergency responders stayed busy Tuesday night during a mock disaster drill described as a building collapse at the West Kentucky Expo Center.

Responders were advised to expect mass casualties.

The drill was carried out by Murray State University, Murray-Calloway County Hospital, Murray police and firefighters, the Calloway sheriff's department and the county emergency management operations center.

"It's a mock exercise, but it's also a very real test of our ability to respond to an actual disaster," said Marty Barnett, co-chairman of the emergency management committee. "We revise the disaster drill plan every year."

This year's focus centered on the classification of patients.

Murray-Calloway County EMS responded to the scene of the mock earthquake and collapse and triaged patients before taking them to the hospital.

A triage tag helps emergency personnel and physicians communicate, indicating which patients are critical, and therefore top priority, and which need only first aid.

More than a dozen hospital departments - including emergency, surgery, radiology and security - participated in the drill.

Tracking patients is also a top priority of the hospital, said Brian Harrison, co-chairman of the emergency management committee.

"If a family called looking for their relative, we would be able to locate them within a matter of seconds," he said.  "In the middle of a disaster, a family wants to know where their relatives are."

Hospitals are required by the Joint Commission to have disaster response plans in place and conduct periodic drills for improvement and training. The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies more than 20,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States.

"Actually, I have been very pleased with what I have seen so far," said John Wilson, hospital vice president of human resources and incident commander. "There is always opportunity for improvement when it comes to communication."


Contact Becca Schimmel, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652.

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