Disaster drill conducted

Agencies call practice a success

Omak High School drama students portray injured students while first responders assess mock injuries during a mass-casualty drill Friday morning south of Omak.

Photo by Brock Hires
Omak High School drama students portray injured students while first responders assess mock injuries during a mass-casualty drill Friday morning south of Omak.

OMAK — Law enforcement and health care officials are calling Friday’s mass casualty drill response successful.

The drill, staged by Mid-Valley Hospital and Omak Fire Department, portrayed a rollover bus scenario on an icy road. There were 18 students from the Omak High School drama department involved playing the role of injured students.

Mid-Valley Clinic, Confluence Health, Family Health Centers, LifeLine Ambulance, Omak Police Department, Okanogan County Dispatch, Okanogan Fire Department and Okanogan Emergency Management, along with several observers, were also involved in the drill.

“It was exciting to see all of the organizations come together and perform so well,” Mid-Valley Hospital CEO Alan Fisher said. “The teamwork between the entities spoke volumes to the efficiencies in providing emergency response to a mass casualty event for our community.”

The goal of the exercise was focused on response plans for an actual crisis, which could trigger a sudden flood of patients who are injured or suffering from an unexpected disaster. Mid-Valley Hospital immediately activated incident command and called in Omak School District’s communication officer, Sheila Corson, to collaborate and set up a joint information center to optimize communication efforts.

“I think we mostly identified some lines of communication that we needed to tighten up, but I was also encouraged by how well we all were able to work together quickly to address the situation,” Corson said.

Omak Police Chief Jeff Koplin echoed that.

“I think it went really well,” he said. “A drill of that sort has kind of limited law enforcement involvement, but it was good for us all to show up on the scene.”

He said he identified a few small things that could be improved on in a real-life situation, including better security at the hospital after the students were transported there.

“Overall, I think it was really successful.”

He said one officer was on vacation and other was sick last week, leaving himself, a patrol and detective to respond to the drill.

“It was actually pretty close to real life for us.”

After the drill, a representative from each organization met to go over all of the details, areas of improvements and strengths of each part of the drill in a “hot wash.”

Everyone involved learned of different barriers that each other faces in the field and how we can better work together to help one another, hospital spokeswoman Mikaela Marion said.

“I was thrilled,” said Family Health Center’s Safety Office Tom Summerson. “I thought I identified some of our weaknesses and played on some of our strengths and I thought it was a win.”

Okanogan County Emergency Manager Maurice Goodall also called the drill a success.

“Thumbs up to MVH for organizing the drill and to all the participants,” Goodall said. “We all hope to never have an incident like this occur, but if one does then the community will be in better hands due to the efforts of the organizers and participants taking the time to plan and train.”

Goodall said being prepared for such events begins with self responsibillity.

“Help us help you by opting-in to the Okanogan County Alert System,” he said. “Signing up will assure that you receive time-sensitive notifications for hazards affecting your specific home address and/or workplace.

Hospitals are required by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, to have disaster response plans in place and to conduct disaster drills periodically for improvement and training purposes.

To signup for emergency alerts, see to www.okanogandem.org.


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