FORT POLK, La. — Soldiers and civilian staff at Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital prepared for real world emergencies with a mass casualty exercise March 9 and 10 at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Capt. Kelvin Cook, chief of operations for BJACH said exercises and training help organizations prepare for challenges.
“The purpose of exercises like these are to get repetitions in preparation for major events that are non-daily occurrences,” he said. “Mass casualty events are not common here, but if we experience one it is imperative that our staff and leadership are ready to execute. This allows us to rehearse what is supposed to happen.”
Cook said BJACH has a MASCAL plan in place.
“MASCALs are stressful and bend operations almost to a breaking point if you are not prepared,” he said. “This plan is necessary in support our facility’s primary mission of providing professional and compassionate healthcare to our patients.”
Maj. Cody McDonald, clinical nurse in charge of the emergency department, said training for emergencies ensures readiness.
“When we experience a MASCAL, anyone can help get patients on and off of a helicopter,” he said. “We want to make sure we don’t create more patients by being unsafe around an aircraft. This training helps our Soldiers and staff understand the expectations and commands of the crew chief or flight medic.”
McDonald said working with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Aviation Regiment creates interoperability between emergency assets across the installation.
1st Lt. Thomas Gorman, pilot with Charlie Company “Cajun Dust Off” 1st Battalion, 5th Aviation Regiment said they work closely with BJACH daily.
“Hot and cold load training is one of the most important steps in the medical evacuation process,” he said. “The training teaches Soldiers and civilians how to physically interact with our crew for handing off or receiving patients from the helicopter crew.”
Gorman said it is extremely important to learn how to properly utilize the litter under the increased stress of a turning rotor system. Units that host this training see increased efficiency under the rotor disc, and less miscommunication in a very noisy environment.
“BJACH and Cajun Dust Off see each other nearly every day,” he said. “Both of our units need to have a cohesive communication and working relationship. With systems and processes set in place to aid in the efficient transfer of patients, Soldiers and civilians alike will be able to get the care they need with quickness and skill.”
Cook said the hot and cold load training and the MASCAL exercise are necessary to maintain critical skills.
“We are constantly training to ensure we don’t lose perishable operational skills at BJACH,” he said. “These exercises keep our leaders current on their roles and responsibilities during an emergent situation. Individually, everyone knows what they need to do when the time comes however, the challenge is to know what others are doing during an emergency and how to nest your plan with other departments and organizations collectively.
This is how we can be effectively synced.”
Cook said there is a lot of talent at BJACH.
“By conducting these exercises, we are able to begin the melding of great minds into a single solid plan,” he said. “This benefits everyone that comes through our doors.”
Cook said he’s confident in the ability of the BJACH staff to respond effectively to a MASCAL situation.
“I believe that we are capable of handling whatever comes through our doors,” he said. “Whether it be patients that can be treated here, or patients that need to be transferred out, the staff we have here are extremely passionate and knowledgeable in their professions and have the tools to be successful. We are prepared to handle emergent situations, but there is no ‘cookie cutter’ one-size-fits-all plan so we must be prepared but ready to evolve and change based on the situation.”
Cook said emergency preparedness and training are essential for readiness.