DHMC stages disaster scene
At 6:22 p.m. Wednesday the halls of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center echoed with the piercing cries of "code 1000" over the public address system, putting the entire hospital on full disaster alert for multiple trauma victims with serious injuries.
Seconds before sounding the alarm the hospital had received a call from medical dispatch, relaying information from the disaster scene.
Building 50 of the old hospital on Maynard Street in Hanover had collapsed. The initial assessment indicated more than 20 victims and several life-threatening injuries.
But there were no reporters or concerned family members at the scene or in the hospital because this was a simulated disaster drill, intended as practice for real disasters.
"The disaster drills that we simulate serve as invaluable hands on experience for the medical staff at the hospitals as well as the Emergency Medical Technicians out in the field," said Robb Fuller, the disaster planning administrative coordinator at the DHMC.
The object is to make the circumstances of the disaster seem as real as possible, Fuller said. Wreckage is simulated, so EMT's can practice excavation and rescue techniques, as well as on-the-scene emergency medical care.
Medical and emergency rescue personnel elicited the help of friends and family to make patient injury simulation seem as real as possible.
Ambulances brought victims of all ages to the DHMC and the patients had varying degrees of injury, from minor shock to traumas that demanded immediate surgery.
Volunteer victims applied makeup to their bodies to show blood, cuts and abrasions. White makeup was used to signify the dead. Tags were placed on the victims to explain what happened to them.
Each victim was briefed on what to tell the rescuer if asked any questions and how to act. This is the most fun for the participants and essential to the effectiveness of the drill, Fuller said.
"We try to play the game as much as we can," he said.
In addition to the training benefits, disaster drill simulations are required of hospitals every few years in order to gain or renew accreditation, Fuller said.
The last time rescue squads and hospitals in the Upper Valley had to actually use experience gained from disaster drills was approximately two or three years ago when there was a gas leak in the K-Mart in West Lebanon, Fuller said.
The drill was performed in conjunction with Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon and the Veterans Affairs Hospital in White River Junction.
The three Upper Valley hospitals are part of a trading network and share responsibility for accepting victims of mass casualty disasters.
The DHMC has been conducting disaster planning drills since the 1920s, Fueller said.
Other simulated disaster situations have included an airplane crash, said Fuller. This drill was conducted in conjunction with the rescue department at Lebanon airport.