By CATHY MOUNCE, Register Staff Writer
Emergency workers tested their response skills in a mock radioactive contamination incident at North Texas Medical Center Wednesday.
Gainesville Fire and Rescue, Cooke County Emergency Medical Services, North Central Texas College (NCTC) nursing students and NTMC staff participated in the code purple disaster drill.
The NCTC nursing students played the roles of accident victims, some of whom required assistance for injuries. Others went through decontamination procedures.
One student said that this was a good experience since many of them will be working in hospitals following graduation.
Asst. Gainesville Fire Chief Wally Cox was on hand to supervise the set up of the decontamination tents and handling procedures.
“One of the decontamination tents belongs to NTMC and one belongs to the Muenster hospital,” Cox said. “ It does take about 20 minutes to set these up. The emergency room is available to take on some of the initial victims in a disaster while the decontamination tents can handle more as needed.”
Soap and water is used to wash contamination victims.
The water is then drained into storage containers which will be disposed of via a hazardous materials (hazmat) handling agency.
“We do not have a hazmat company in this area but would be able to call one in from the metroplex areas,” Cox said.
NTMC safety officer Shane Greer said that the hospital has drills at least once per quarter under various circumstances to help workers prepare for both natural and man made disasters.
“The drill went fairly smooth today but we did have some actual emergencies in the ER so we curtailed some of the latter details of the drill,” Greer said. “We have a standard procedures list that we make for each drill and we managed to cover everything on our list today. The list today included procedures in handling decontamination, triage, the women’s center, the walking wounded, family waiting, the command center, crowd control, psychological evaluation and the media.”
In addition to natural disasters such as tornados and flooding, the Gainesville area’s close proximity to the railroad, airport and U.S. Interstate Highway 35 also make it a potential hotspot for man made disasters, he noted.
Drills such as the one held Wednesday are essential, NTMC marketing director Gayla Blanton said.
“We feel the drill went well,” she said. “It is imperative that we perform these drills in order to actively practice our disaster plan. When we are able to physically perform tasks with other agencies and our actors, it allows us to streamline processes and hone our skills, to better prepare us for actual incidents.”