FORT POLK, La. -- Emergencies and disasters are in the news every day. Preparing for them can make the difference between life and death. That's why Fort Polk's Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital (BJACH) held an all-day multi-situational mass casualty training Dec. 2.

"This is one of our twice-annual mass casualty drills. It's mandated by the Joint Commission on Health that every hospital in the country perform disaster drills twice a year as part of being an accredited hospital," said Capt. Jon Solberg, chief of emergency medicine, BJACH.

He said one of the most important things about the drill is stressing other systems on post such as the military police, fire department, decontamination lines and patient administration section, in conjunction with the medical aspect of training, so that when a real event happens, organizations can work together.

Sgt. First Class Greg Wilson Jr., BJACH's noncommissioned officer in charge of plans, training, mobility and security, helped put the MASCAL exercise into motion.

"The importance of this training is to make sure BJACH is fully capable of handling numerous situations at once," Wilson said. "This is the first time for a while that we are doing numerous exercises at the same time."

"The four events happening today include a decontamination scenario, a failure to the infrastructure such as a power outage, an active shooter exercise and a mass casualty scenario," said Wilson. "It's supposed to test our ability to cope. In reality, we probably aren't going to get that many things happening all at once, but we need to have a full assessment of our capabilities as a hospital. The likeliness of at least one of these events happening is pretty high and we're supposed to be ready at all times."

From a medical standpoint, Solberg said, it's unusual for the emergency room to get 50 or more patients at the same time, but it can happen.

Recently, there was a big jump with the 82nd Airborne and we got 75 patients (with minor injuries) in one night.

"We ran it like a mini-mass casualty and the medical portion of the emergency functioned pretty well, but that situation didn't stress other systems on post - directing traffic, calling the emergency disaster management organization at the state level and alerting everybody else. So, the purpose of this mass casualty training is to stress the other systems, too," said Solberg.

The emergency room's part of the mass casualty exercise started at 11 a.m.

"Things have gone pretty well, but simulating medical patients is always difficult. The ER plays its role by attending to the patient's "injuries" and keeping them here for a while before making sure there are people available to evacuate the patient to their next location," said Solberg.

Getting to the emergency room at BJACH was just another step in the process for Brian Gouchenouer, a Warrior Transition Unit volunteer for the exercise.

"They sent me through the decontamination tent, washed me off and sent me to the emergency room. The decontamination process was a cold and claustrophobic experience. I'm supposed to have chemical burns," said Gouchenouer.

He said if this had been a real incident he felt like things would have been under control.

"They were prepared and did a good job taking care of us," said Gouchenouer.

Solberg also feels the After-Action Review that will take place when the drill is over is important.

"Was there was a break down in communication' Did patients get backed-up in one area as opposed to another' Did all the phone lines work' The drills never run 100 percent smoothly, but everybody comes together afterward and takes the after-action review seriously," Solberg explained.

"We always learn something from it. We're going to find things that didn't work today. But it's not about how smoothly things ran. What's important is where did the process break down and how do we fix it'" Solberg continued.

He said as a military hospital, BJACH takes these drills seriously.

"These Soldiers deploy, train and work together. I think the community can rest assured that we will do a good job," said Solberg.

Page last updated Mon December 13th, 2010 at 14:58