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    A Mass Casualty Blast of an Exercise at NHB

    A Mass Casualty Blast of an Exercise at NHB

    Photo By Petty Officer 2nd Class Jennifer Benedict | Collective response to mass casualties in need… A midweek morning suddenly exploded...... read more read more

    A midweek morning suddenly exploded into a training drill at Naval Hospital Bremerton.

    As part of a full scale exercise to test the military treatment facility response to a mass casualty scenario, a mock blast went off near the radiology and laboratory area, resulting in a number of faux wounded, May 29, 2024.

    “It’s better to sweat in training than bleed in battle,” said Terry Lerma, NHB emergency preparedness manager. “How we deal with chaos and stress along with responding to multiple casualties is why we hold a drill like this.”

    There were 20 casualties. Eight needed to be transferred to St. Michael Medical Center for more advanced treatment due to their injuries. Navy Region Northwest Fire and Emergency Services along with Olympic Ambulance transported the wounded personal to St. Michael Medical Center. Their cries of agony and anguish could be heard as soon as the exercise began.

    As Lerma noted, the simulated victims had a pivotal role in the exercise.

    “They’re key. Without their realism the drill would not be an adequate training environment. They go a long way to making sure this evolution helps us validate our response efforts,” explained Lerma. “We either treat to get them back on their feet, or triage and transport out for higher level of care. Being able to work with our colleagues in Fed Fire, Olympic Ambulance and St. Michael Medical Center was really valuable to assess our ability in a joint environment.”

    The exercise also tested the command’s ability to communicate with staff as well as account for everyone. Yet after approximately one hour, there were still 16 staff unaccounted for.

    “That meant we checked them against the injured list, and determined other means to contact them, whether they’re officer or enlisted active duty, or civil service, contractor civilian staff members,” explained Capt. Maria Edusada, NHB director for administration.

    NHB’s emergency management continuity of operational plan called for promptly taking stock of available manpower, existing supplies and accessible logistical needs. It also included actively supporting the crucial responsibilities of security and safety personnel carrying out their varied assignments in such a scenario from securing the building to mishap awareness.

    An opportune press conference was held 60 minutes after the event started.

    “It’s vital for us to get share in a timely manner on what we know. We’re not going to have all the answers but by sharing what we do know, that establishes we’re the go-to source,” stressed Lerma. “How many times do we see that there’s some disaster but there’s no official spokesperson? It was also crucial to communicate internally with all staff to provide them with the same factual information. We know that everyone is calling friends and family or getting called from them on their current status. Again, we might not know all the details, but we share what we have so no one is speculating. We also use our official command Facebook page as a reliable resource.”

    Once the mass casualty incident was activated and announced, all staff members were to report to their appropriate assignment area.

    “Flexibility is central to our success in any event like this. All of staff must be ready to perform as directed,” said Lerma.

    Normal daily operations ceased. The hospital incident command system was activated. Staff went to their pre-designated assigned areas or gathered as part of the manpower pool. Casualty receiving area locales were set up to handle immediate [severely wounded but will survive with timely treatment], delayed [significant requiring treatment, but can wait without threat to life or limb], minimal [walking wounded with minor injuries] or expectant [extensive wounds].

    There were lessons learned, because as Lerma attests, “Rule number one, no disaster ever goes according to plan. This is why we hold an exercise like this. We’ve asked for input from those involved which will help improve our actual drill scenario and help improve our responses.”


    Date Taken: 05.30.2024
    Date Posted: 05.30.2024 11:36
    Story ID: 472579

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