Worst-case scenario: Mass casualty events call for massive preparation

April 27, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership,

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On Tuesday, departments across Michigan Medicine worked together to carry out an exercise aimed at saving the lives of future patients.

The mass casualty exercise — which called upon staff to respond to a local mass shooting scenario — ensured that all team members understand their roles and responsibilities in the event of a real-world disaster or crisis in the area. It also helped the organization meet requirements of the Joint Commission and Center for Medicaid Services.

“Exercises like this are vitally important because proper preparation can help save lives,” said Hilary King, director of emergency management operations for Michigan Medicine. “By successfully carrying out the simulation, we see the ways in which we can improve our response to better serve our patients and community.”

Tuesday’s planned drill began with a phone call to the emergency department alerting them to scenario details. The staff was told to prepare for many casualties, with the first victims arriving within five minutes.

“As would happen in a real emergency, the charge nurse reached out to the administrator on call,” King said. “A ‘Code D’ was then activated throughout the medical center through both electronic communications and a public address announcement. That alerted all departments to initiate their disaster response plans — which they all practice on an annual basis.”

Depending on the department, a disaster response plan may involve calling in extra staff members or reassigning those currently on duty. Additionally, the organization immediately opened its command center where supervisors and managers come together to monitor the situation and assist in any way they can.

Equipment and supplies were delivered to the adult and pediatric emergency rooms as the “patients” — some 50 volunteers from the Ann Arbor community — began to arrive. At the same time, administrators practiced how they would delay routine surgeries in order to open up space in operating rooms for the sudden influx of would-be shooting victims.

“Everyone in the hospital has a role to play in a situation such as this,” King said, “whether they are communicating with our outside partners like Huron Valley Ambulance, allocating beds for patients or helping call in additional staff members.”

Representatives from other local hospitals, the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Department of Public Health were on hand throughout the exercise to observe and offer objective feedback.

“We take that feedback very seriously,” King said. “We need to know if there are any areas where we fall short, so we can solve those problems before a real crisis takes place. That’s how we will provide the best emergency care possible.”

For more information on your role during a mass casualty event, be sure to talk to your supervisor.