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RAC evaluates mass casualty preparedness at CMH

Posted by: tdt -

By Robin Scott

    Several staff members of Coon Memorial Hospital and EMS participated in a simulated disaster on Tuesday, June 16th.  The drill took place in the emergency room area of the hospital and was overseen by an evaluator for the Regional Advisory Council, RAC.  The afternoon simulation was brief, but the skills practiced were invaluable.

RAC members include hospitals, emergency medical teams, counties and individuals.  Dallam and Hartley Counties are members of the Panhandle RAC Trauma Service Area A.  According to the Panhandle RAC, “Its purpose is to provide the infrastructure and leadership necessary to develop an inclusive trauma system.  They assist members to achieve the highest level of trauma care in an effort to reduce trauma related deaths, encourage activities that promote cooperation between member organizations, provide professional education for trauma care providers, provide public education and awareness and develop a Regional Trauma System Plan and regional standards of care through the cooperative efforts of member organizations.”

Tuesday’s mock disaster was a tornado with mass casualties.  The participants were given up to the minute scenarios that guided their actions and decision-making.  In the exercise, the hospital was without power, phone lines and cell phones.  Hospital personnel quickly switched to battery operated radios to communicate with one another.   Ambulances were not able to reach the hospital for up to an hour in the simulated disaster.  

    Participants handled all of the necessary paper work for triaging patients as in a true catastrophe and by hand, without the use of computers.  They also followed through with emergency plans such as moving patients to safer areas of the hospital and away from windows.  The patients were “invisible,” but the process for triage was taken seriously and with intent.  Updates on power, incoming victims and when generated power would be available were given continuously.  

    Dr. Randy Herring participated as the on-call doctor.  He assisted with assessing victims.  Several of the victims required transport to Amarillo, and their life sustaining support was manually provided due to the staged power outage.  CMH Trauma Coordinator Kelly Galloway acted in her general capacity, as well as kept a level of calm in the ordered chaos.

    Coon Memorial Home also took part in the drill and staff saw to the needs of residents as they would in an actual emergency.   During an actual emergency, each person on duty or on the scene has a designated area of responsibility and an incident command is set up to coordinate the efforts of those assisting with the injured to those handling a temporary morgue.  

    The drill is an opportunity to discover areas of shortcomings or potential problems, as well as areas that run efficiently and are strengths.  Without warning, the hospital must determine the status of its available blood supply, vaccines, working generators, refrigeration, lab facilities, the whereabouts of all EMS and first responders and incoming personnel.  At the same time victims are flowing into the ER and quickly surpass capacity.   

    DeNisa Brown, a paramedic with EMS, explained how triage works out at a mass casualty scene and stated, “We are trained to quickly assess a victim’s medical condition.  We only have moments with each victim, and we do not stop to provide medical services.  Each victim receives a triage tag that identifies them as ‘Minor,’ ‘Delayed,’ ‘Immediate,’ or ‘Morgue.’  Everyone is triaged before we go back to render aid or transport.  As more EMS arrive on scene, victims begin receiving treatment.  It is a very difficult thing to learn because our instinct is to provide emergency medical treatment and not just an assessment, but that is what you must do in a situation of multiple victims.”

    During the last full week of school, DeNisa Brown and Kelly Galloway provided the Hug-A-Tree and Survive program to students at Dalhart Elementary School.  The video for that program was provided by RAC as a part of their education services.

    For more information about the Panhandle RAC visit

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