Health First Joins Regional Coalition to Drill for Train Derailment Worst Case Senario

drill simulated a large-scale mass-casualty preparedness exercise

The first call came in at 8:02 a.m. to Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center incident command center relaying the “worst case” scenario that would quickly involve dozens of regional hospitals and agencies across East Central Florida. Within 30 minutes, dozens of volunteers – many of them regional college students covered in fake injury makeup or donning almost Halloween-ish looking injuries – began arriving by car, on foot, and by ambulance to all four Health First hospitals in Brevard County. (Health First image)

Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center also hosted Kennedy Space Center Deputy Chief Medical Officer and team as observers.

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – The first call came in at 8:02 a.m. to Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center incident command center relaying the “worst case” scenario that would quickly involve dozens of regional hospitals and agencies across East Central Florida.

A major train derailment involving a large box truck carrying hazardous materials has occurred at Hwy. 520 and U.S. 1 in Cocoa.

If the incident sounds familiar – just harken back little more than two months ago in E. Palestine, Ohio, where a similar accident created a massive regional crisis and response.

Within 30 minutes, dozens of volunteers – many of them regional college students covered in fake injury makeup or donning almost Halloween-ish looking injuries – began arriving by car, on foot, and by ambulance to all four Health First hospitals in Brevard County.

The drill simulated a large-scale mass-casualty preparedness exercise, in which the actor “patients” were diverted to, and received by, hospitals across the East Central Florida region.

The exercise included nearly 2,000 mock patients in all – presenting to hospitals with triage tags and simulated injuries. It was designed to fully stress hospital emergency rooms – testing the hospitals’ ability to handle mass casualty events. Health First’s four hospitals received a total of 350 mock patients flooding emergency departments in a 2-hour time frame. (Health First image)

The exercise included nearly 2,000 mock patients in all – presenting to hospitals with triage tags and simulated injuries. It was designed to fully stress hospital emergency rooms – testing the hospitals’ ability to handle mass casualty events. Health First’s four hospitals received a total of 350 mock patients flooding emergency departments in a 2-hour time frame.

According to Wayne Struble, Health First’s Director of Emergency Preparedness, realistic practice events like this one are designed not so much to ensure jobs are done right – but rather, coordinators are looking for failures.

“As an emergency manager you want to see where we fail,” said Struble. “I don’t mean fail in a bad way, but we want to see the spots where we can get better, and then we take those areas for improvement and immediately work on them. We’re always looking for opportunities to get even better.”

The annual drill was coordinated by the Central Florida Disaster Medical Coalition, and supported by more than 100 partner agencies, including emergency management, schools, EMS, law enforcement, hospitals, public health, and many others.

The drill simulated a large-scale mass-casualty preparedness exercise, in which the actor “patients” were diverted to, and received by, hospitals across the East Central Florida region.

Drill by the numbers:

● 53 East Central Florida hospitals

● 1,900+ student victim volunteers

● Nine county emergency management offices

● 20 EMS agencies

● FBI agents and law enforcement officials

● Many other partner agencies

On hand at Holmes Regional Medical Center as an observer was Dr. Philip Scarpa, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, NASA-Kennedy Space Center and his team. As manned space missions are rapidly increasing, Health First is a proud medical support center for NASA launches. (Health First image)

On hand at Holmes Regional Medical Center as an observer was Dr. Philip Scarpa, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, NASA-Kennedy Space Center and his team. As manned space missions are rapidly increasing, Health First is a proud medical support center for NASA launches.

Dr. Scarpa and his team attended today’s drill in Melbourne as part of NASA/Kennedy Space Center’s partnership with Health First and other regional medical systems.

“This is a great opportunity to visit and support Health First and Holmes Regional Medical Center as one of the main support hospitals that we would be sending astronauts and/or ground teams to in a real emergency,” said Scarpa.

“It wasn’t always that way many years ago, and I’ve been working at the Cape now for 30 years. We’d have to plan to fly them all the way up to a trauma center in Gainesville, for instance. And that, of course, takes time and time is life. These drills are like sharpening a knife. The more you do it, the better you understand what’s worked, what’s failed, and what opportunities we have for improvement. Now take that and you can refine it,” Scarpa continued.

“These drills are as real as they get, and it’s an opportunity not only to train for a true event, but it’s also a source of pride for every Health First associate to know that we are a part of something like this. In a mass casualty situation, we’re here and ready 24 hours a day,” said Holmes Regional Medical Center trauma surgeon Dr. Tony Dunne. (Health First image)

“These drills are as real as they get, and it’s an opportunity not only to train for a true event, but it’s also a source of pride for every Health First associate to know that we are a part of something like this. In a mass casualty situation, we’re here and ready 24 hours a day,” said Holmes Regional Medical Center trauma surgeon Dr. Tony Dunne.

“The possibility of a situation like this scenario occurring is becoming more and more realistic each day, so managing these drills, which involves practically every department and level of a hospital – in order to keep everybody fresh and skills up to date in the event a mass casualty event like this occurs, is very important,” Dunne continued.

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