BY MELANIE BUCK –
A full-scale emergency crisis drill recently took place in Mena as 13 hospitals and communities within the River Valley Region of the Arkansas Hospital Association prepare their staffs for large-scale episodes. Each year, seven regions in the State of Arkansas conduct drills that center around preparedness, preparing for any emergency situations that may occur. Since 9/11, agencies from coast to coast practice emergency drills so they are well prepared and equipped to help residents in the event of an emergency that affects communities. The most recent drill was held on Friday, April 8, 2016.
MRHS Public Relations Specialist Sonya Maye explained that a scenario is created for the hospitals to use for the training exercise. The scenario of this year’s drill given to hospital teams conducting the training revolved around a “Freedom Day Marathon” held in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and high schools throughout the state were “hosting” Freedom Day 5K runs to celebrate citizens’ many freedoms as many people were out enjoying the beautiful spring weather. (Please note that this is a fictional scenario only for the purpose of the drill.)
In Mena, the “reports” began coming in Friday morning from around the region through social media that several fictional explosions had occurred on the main marathon route. There were also reports that multiple fictional gunshots had been heard at several high school events, including the faux location set up at Bearcat Stadium at Mena High School.
Included in the training in Mena was the staff of MRHS, Southwest EMS, Mena Fire Department, Mena Police Department, Polk County Emergency Management, Emergency Medical Services, and the Health Department. The trainees were staged at Bearcat stadium and used their skills to organize, treat, load, and transport patients to the hospital. Once at the hospital, the timeline was set for intake of patients, treatment of, and transfer to other facilities as necessary. The exercise shows how equipped and prepared emergency services are to handle a crisis situation.
The training even prepares staff with the necessary skills to communicate with panic-stricken family members searching for loved ones. Facilities are inundated with phone calls from family members of the victims and people that were at the various events, looking for information on family members and friends was part of the scenario as well.
“Everything about the drill was created as if an actual crisis situation was occurring,” said Maye. Local authorities, Mena Regional Health System, Office of Emergency Management, Emergency Medical Services and the Health Department were all involved during the drill.
Robby Hines, owner of Southwest EMS, also sits on the board of the River Valley Region of the Arkansas Hospital Association and said the trainings are conducted to test the capabilities of the hospitals and use what they identify as their strengths and weaknesses to build from. “These trainings give communities the ability to handle any situation such as a dirty bomb or a radiological accident, or a mass flu problem. We don’t have to worry about where we can take a patient because with the regional trauma system, we can connect and decide where in the region to send that particular patient. It’s nice to have other systems to fall back on. It’s a great thing for the state.”