Hospital, Area Agencies Take Part in Disaster Preparedness Drill

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Good Shepherd staff along with local students playing accident victims were among those participating in a full-scale disaster preparedness drill on Tuesday at Good Shepherd Medical Center. (Photos by Michael Kane)

It’s better to plan for a disaster that never strikes than to be caught off guard when one does.

With that in mind, Good Shepherd Health Care System and numerous area agencies took part in a full-scale disaster preparedness drill on Tuesday at the hospital.

Area school students portray some of the “walking wounded” during Tuesday’s drill at Good Shepherd.

The scenario that played out involved a multi-vehicle pileup on the Interstate 84/Interstate 82 interchange due to a dust storm. Among the vehicles involved was a school bus full of students, played by 26 students from Hermiston High School and Sandstone Middle School. Four new grad nurses from Good Shepherd also played the role of victims, some of whom were in full makeup to reflect serious injuries.

“We appreciate our community partners and volunteers that participated in this drill making it as real-world as possible,” said Good Shepherd President and CEO Art Mathisen.

Area agencies that took part included:

  • Oregon State Police
  • Oregon Department of Transportation
  • Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office
  • Umatilla County Emergency Management
  • Umatilla County Public Health
  • Umatilla County Fire District No. 1
  • Life Flight Network
  • Morrow County Rural Fire District
  • Pendleton Fire Department
  • First Student Bus Company
  • Bert’s Auto Salvage & Towing

Dean Marcum, regional emergency coordinator for the Oregon Health Authority, said the drills are conducted yearly and sometimes twice a year.

“We bring all outside agencies together to coordinate a response to disasters such as this,” Marcum said.

Mathisen got his wish of making the drill as realistic as possible. One of the volunteer victims said he got emotional during the exercise.

“It seemed very real,” said Aaron Thacker, a senior at HHS. “I even cried, but it was fun.”

Life Flight Network was among the agencies taking part in the exercise on Tuesday.

Ninth grader Cheyenne Hoskins said it was an eye-opening experience.

“I wanted to see what it was like to be in a medical emergency,” she said. “It was fun, but it felt very real.”

Thacker, like many of the students who volunteered to play accident victims, is a drama student at HHS. Ninth grader MiKenzie Marks said she volunteered for a couple of different reasons.

“I wanted the acting experience,” she said. “Plus, I got to skip school.”

Good Shepherd’s Otis Hopkins, a certified surgical technician, said the drill was beneficial for the hospital staff.

“It offers us continued education and helps us work together in traumatic situations,” he said. “It also allows us to work with different resources in the community – police, fire, EMTs.”

Ashlee Rico, a registered nurse at Good Shepherd, said the real-life scenario gave her and her colleagues a chance to put their skills into action.

“The hands-on part was awesome,” she said. “Everyone in character was great. It looked very real.”

Marcum said the drill revealed issues that needed to be – and were – addressed in real time.

“This exercise was a success because we identified some communications gaps and mitigated them before and during the drill,” he said. He also had a word of thanks for the volunteers.

“The local 30 volunteers we had play victims for this exercise were excellent,” he said.

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