PRESTONSBURG - Highlands Health System recently participated in “Operation Omega Shield,” a coordinated drill with the Health Planning Coalition, preparing various health care facilities and organizations in surrounding counties for the threat of a chemical or biological disaster.
Officials with Highlands Health Systems say that the drill consisted of a first responders’ team being called to the decontamination tent where local volunteers from Prestonsburg High School served as contaminated patients. The volunteers were then treated as if they had been exposed to Anthrax and brought through a decontamination tent to be cleaned. Victims were then taken to the emergency room for further evaluation.
As the drill progressed, an Incident Command Center was set up in the hospital, where hospital managers served in key roles to organize communication, manage resources, and provide information to participants.
“It is important that everyone be aware of the exercise and its significance to our organization and our community,” said Tim Vires, Director of the Critical Care Unit at Highlands Regional Medical Center. “Our readiness in times of emergency or disaster is important not only to us, but our families and the people we serve every day.”
In order to keep the situation as authentic as possible, medical and emergency professionals were forced to adapt on the fly as unexpected twists were added to the conditions of the exercise.
“We train and prepare constantly for disasters of any size,” said Maxanna Cook, Highlands’ spokesperson. “This particular drill included many challenges to test our skills.”
Employees at every level in the organization got the opportunity to play a part in the simulation. “Administrators, doctors, managers, and staff all took this very seriously,” said Cook. “Preparedness and learning is our goal with these types of exercises, but we had some fun doing it as well.”
According to Cook, Highlands will look for ways to improve their performance by evaluating the drill.
The mock disaster was a training exercise put together by Region 10 Health Planning Coalition, which involved emergency management, hospitals, long-term care centers, local health departments, emergency medical services, rehabilitation centers, schools, coroners, fire departments, 911, mental health, and non-profits like American Red Cross and Christian Appalachia Project.
The HPC’s overall mission is to coordinate medical activities, efforts and resources within the region to mount a more appropriate, effective and efficient response to related health-care disasters.