FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska -- Medical Department Activity Alaska joined Ft. Wainwright in Ice Fog, a post-wide exercise June 21 through 23, testing hospital and staff capabilities during a mass casualty event.

Jun 22 started like every other day for MEDDAC-AK personnel. Patients were being cared for on the inpatient wards while others were being seen for regularly scheduled appointments in specialty and primary care clinics. This routine day ended at 9:04 a.m. when an overhead page and mass email went out to all personnel within MEDDAC-AK's footprint announcing a 'Code Grey.'

This code alerted personnel to activate the disaster plan, putting into action a well-tested, highly choreographed set of procedures for all MEDDAC-AK personnel.

The scenario reported a blast in on-post housing resulting in mass casualties all of which were transported to Bassett Army Community Hospital.

"The simulated events we receive mirror real-life situations that happen around the country and could just as easily happen here," says Ralph Wineland emergency manager for MEDDAC-AK. "We do this to ensure that we are prepared to take care of the community no matter what the emergency."

As part of the exercise Bassett responded to the unexpected patient surge by triaging, sorting and treating 16 patients that were brought in by first responders. These patients had injuries ranging from extensive burns and fractures to blast injuries and internal bleeding.

While the emergency room was in the forefront during the event, as they were receiving the injured patients, the exercise touched almost every department of MEDDAC-AK, says Wineland.

"The patient administration division was evaluated for their ability to track patients and their movements throughout the hospital, security guards conducted perimeter and vehicle checks to ensure the safety of all beneficiaries receiving care at Bassett ACH, the managed care division coordinated evacuation flights for the burn victims and the medical warehouse supported with MASCAL carts containing additional medical supplies during a patient surge being pushed to the hospital," said Wineland.

At the end of the three-hour event an external evaluation team from U.S. Army Installation Command gave high marks to the MEDDAC-AK team, indicating that they had exceeded the requirement contained in the exercise evaluation guide.

"Though the exercise was deemed a success," said Wineland, "there are always areas we can improve in, which is exactly why we do these exercises. Being able to hone the skills of both our medical and non-medical personnel in a quick-paced, high pressure environment like that found in a mass casualty event is important - as is the ability to test our processes and procedures."

MEDDAC-AK conducts large scale exercises two to four times a year as well as smaller monthly drills in different areas of the hospital.

According to Wineland, these exercises are imperative to the safety of the community.

"These types of drills allow us to test and train both our rotating military personnel and our civilian workforce," said Wineland. "The teamwork built during these exercises both internally and externally allows us to maintain a high state of readiness to ensure we can support a globally ready force and provide safe, high-quality care not just during day-to-day operations, but also in large scale emergency situations."