Successful response during disaster drill |

Successful response during disaster drill

Denise Sloan
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / El Dorado County Supervising Public Health Nurse Phyllis Goldie, left, interviews Cathy Dunbar after she was exposed to a "disease" during a mock disaster Thursday at Al Tahoe Elementary School.

Six area emergency agencies and about 100 people worked hand-in-hand Thursday to successfully complete “Operation Blood, Sweat and Tears,” a disaster drill designed to test our community’s multi-agency communication systems and to assess the emergency medical protocol to respond to a large influx of patients.

This unified command disaster exercise included Barton Memorial Hospital, El Dorado County Health Department, South Lake Tahoe Fire Department, Alpine County Emergency Medical Services, Tahoe-Douglas Fire District and Lake Valley Fire District.

Three mock disasters were staged to occur simultaneously as emergency responders tested their skills, communication systems and procedures.

“This exercise was a very difficult task and quite complex because they had disasters going on at so many different locations all at the same time,” said Dee Grimm of Emergency Management Professionals. Grimm helped the six agencies with the planning and implementation of this disaster drill.

“I feel that the drill went very well from the communication, the cooperation and the great enthusiasm from everyone involved,” said Grimm.

Around 10:30 a.m. six “victims” from a shuttle bus accident in the casino corridor were taken to Barton’s emergency room. Shortly after the shuttle bus accident “victims” arrived at the emergency room, eight more patients arrived with possible symptoms of hepatitis A.

The El Dorado County Public Health Department received notice earlier this week that a food handler at Big Al’s Casino Bar may have exposed about 5,000 to hepatitis A. The health department set up a mass clinic at Al Tahoe School to provide immune globulin for those who were potentially “exposed.” Symptoms of hepatitis A in adults and teens include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and jaundice. Young children often have mild flu-like symptoms, upset stomach or no symptoms at all.

While area emergency workers had their hands full with the accident “victims” and thousands who were possibly “exposed” to hepatitis A, a wild fire “broke out” in Alpine County near Pickets Junction. Fire fighters were on the scene and a total of five people were transported to the emergency room with fire-related injuries.

Barton’s emergency room has eight treatment rooms. During this disaster drill, 19 patients were successfully processed through the emergency department working in tandem with the five other emergency agencies. A detailed evaluation by each agency of Thursday’s disaster drill will be studied in order to make improvements in any areas where difficulties may have arisen.

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