Medical staff tests emergency response
August 25, 2011
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (Aug. 25, 2011) -- Soldiers at Munson Army Health Center scrambled into their level B hazardous material suits as injured patients from a chemical spill at Harney Sports Complex streamed into the parking lot.
The scenario, part of a training exercise for medical staff on post, was set up as an accompanying event to Fort Leavenworth's escaped inmate exercise Aug. 23. In the medical scenario, a chlorine spill at the Harney indoor pool forced an evacuation of patients to Munson Army Health Center. People were taken in trucks to MAHC, where they went through simulated decontamination showers and triage before treatment at the facility. Patients were taken to various stations set up throughout MAHC so that medical staff could determine the most urgent cases, then treat them.
Medical Department Activity Sgt. 1st Class Karen Mutz, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Primary Care Clinic, role-played as a supervisor for delayed and minimal treatment.
"From a combat medic standpoint of someone who has seen this in the real world, it's important to expose our staff who have not had that training to get that experience," she said. "Also, it helps our younger medics who've not been deployed."
Mutz said exposure to chemicals like chlorine could cause burns to face and mouth, and victims could have trouble breathing. MAHC staff focused on using oxygen masks and artificial airways for their patients.
Staff Sgt. Harry Bridgette, MEDDAC, worked with staff in the parking lot of MAHC to ensure patients were properly decontaminated before entering. They initially had no idea what chemical people had been exposed to, and had to work carefully with patients to get the correct information.
"We've gone through a lot of training," Bridgette said. "Even though this is somewhat a scripted scenario, we need to get some real world experience."
Staff also had to cope with equipment that was difficult to set up or was unfamiliar.
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Young, MEDDAC, said that was part of the reason for the exercise.
"This is very real," Young said, "because this could very well happen and we have to ask ourselves, 'Are we prepared? Do we have the equipment? Do we have the training?'"
Pfc. Mary Suggett, MEDDAC, normally works in radiology but said she was ready for any role in the exercise.
"They change us up," Suggett said. "We switch it up as a training thing, so when it's the real thing we can play any role."