Mass casualty exercise tests city, military medical capabilities
May 19, 2011
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, May 19, 2011 -- The scenario started out May 17, 2011, with a number of tornadoes tearing through populated areas of Oklahoma, resulting in casualties that overwhelmed the local medical capabilities. It quickly became necessary to airlift some injured persons to San Antonio for medical care.
In reality, the casualties were Army and Air Force trainees who volunteered to participate in the annual mass casualty exercise held at the Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, flight line and extended to Brooke Army Medical Center, or BAMC, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Methodist Hospital in downtown San Antonio, as patients were triaged and transported to the local hospitals.
The National Disaster Medical System, or NDMS, exercise brought Army, Air Force, and local civilian organizations together to orchestrate the movement of casualties into San Antonio by air, then out to local hospitals by ambulance and ambulance buses.
Participants included Brooke Army Medical Center, the 502nd Air Base Wing, the 59th Medical Wing, the 802nd Mission Support Group, the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council on Trauma, and American Medical Response.
The overall objective of the exercise was two-fold, explained Lt. Col. Chuck Williams, National Disaster Medical System Federal Coordinating Center San Antonio coordinator, citing that the exercise's overall objective was "to improve patient response time readiness and to improve BAMC's ability to handle a MASCAL (mass casualty) situation."
"Here in San Antonio, we are one of the hubs for NDMS Region 6, where we serve as the evacuation center for natural or man-made disasters from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Texas," said Dewey Mitchell, BAMC spokesperson.
"BAMC has the lead in today's exercise," Mitchell added, "but it is a collaborative effort of the military and civilian organizations working together that makes this work effectively."
BAMC is responsible for strategically planning and implementing procedures under the direction of the Department of Health and Human Services, while the 502nd ABW played a key role in helping coordinate logistical support and assets required to support the NDMS mission for the use of Hangar 1610 for this exercise as well as real-world purposes.
The 59th Medical Wing at Wilford Hall Medical Center supported the BAMC Patient Reception Team in order for the NDMS mission to be capable of providing around the clock health care service during an emergency or disaster.
"This exercise will prepare us for a real-world situation," said Master Sgt. Michael Bocconcelli, 59th MDW, chief of the Exercise Evaluation Team. "You never know when a disaster will strike."
During this exercise, BAMC was evaluated on its response to an Oklahoma tornado disaster operating from the Port of San Antonio (Hangar 1610) to receive, sort, triage, and regulate the transportation of patients.
"In order to depict an accurate distribution plan for NDMS patients, BAMC Patient Administration played a key part in collecting patient's data by using the Joint Patient Reception Team and Air Force Global Patient Movement Regulated Center by sending it to BAMC and to the NDMS hospitals for this exercise," Williams said.
Approximately 37 trainee volunteers from the Air Force and Army acted as simulated injured patients who were to receive medical stabilization en route to the Port of San Antonio.
Upon landing and medical triage, the patients were then transported to area hospitals, according to severity of injury and availability of bed spaces.
"At the conclusion of the exercise, local leaders considered it so successful that they are planning to make this a template to use as a model for future exercises," Mitchell said.