CARTHAGE — An ice storm and its consequences might be the furthest thing from your mind on a warm August day, but that was the scenario for the mass casualty drill conducted by Fort Drum with local hospitals Tuesday.
Transported by Army buses, 15 mock patients arrived at Carthage Area Hospital at 10:17 a.m. followed by three more patients arriving at 11:05. One casualty was pronounced deceased on post.
The majority of the injured were triaged as yellow, meaning they had non life-threatening injuries. Most of the drill participants had carbon monoxide poisoning from space heaters not being properly vented in tents.
According to emergency department nurse manager Blair Bulluck, the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning would include headache, fatigue and heart palpations.
He said treatment would include cardiac monitoring, high flow oxygen, chest x-ray and lab work.
As part of the drill, one patient was upgraded to red due to a pneumothorax and was airlifted to another facility for intensive care unit monitoring, said Mr. Bulluck.
Meanwhile, at Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown, 14 patients, labeled green — the walking wounded — were treated for broken bones and other non-life-threatening injuries, said Leslie M. Distefano, Samaritan Medical Center Director of Communication and Public Relations.
In review, parties involved said the drill went well. The Army in cooperation with healthcare facilities conduct mass casualty drills about once a year.
“It’s like fire drills — the more you practice, the better you get,” pointed out Taylour Scanlin, Carthage Area Hospital Marketing Executive Director.
She noted the drill helped the staff work on emergency protocol and find out where there are gaps.
Thomas Jaconski. Emergency Preparedness Coordinator at Carthage Area Hospital, said overall the drill went well.
“It tests our ED especially with the amount of patients,” Mr. Joconski, who was safety officer for the drill, said. “We checked with other hospitals for bad availability.”
Due to the large influx of patients from the drill at the 25-bed hospital, other arrangements had to be made for treatment.
“We were at full capacity for staff and monitoring capability,” said Mr. Bulluck.
Mock patients were sent to the chapel and ambulatory care for treatment and monitoring which, Mr. Bulluck said would be done in real-life situations. Ms. Scanlin said even the maternity department could be utilized if necessary.
Basically the drill unfolded as it would in a real life situation except for the amount of time for monitoring for the carbon monoxide poisoning which Mr. Bulluck said would last for up to eight hours.
“It is an opportunity for growth and development.” Incident commander Natalie Burnham, the hospital’s chief operations officer said. “From where I sat it was handled very quickly.”
“It’s about readiness and preparedness and working in conjunction with local hospitals,” said David McGrath, Fort Drum’s patient administration liaison. “Everyone worked together to get the job done.”
“The drill was successful,” said Ms. DiStefano. “We communicated well. We were able to expedite triage. It is very important to test our emergency preparedness.