Drills Thursday for local hospitals

Seven area hospitals, the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department, and the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management are participating in an exercise on Thursday that will enable them to practice handling an incident that requires decontamination of patients prior to being admitted to the hospital system. Additionally, they will test the use of communication equipment and systems, and patient surge — the capability to rapidly expand the capacity of the healthcare system.

Volunteers will act as ‘patients’ at four MultiCare Health System facilities — Tacoma General, Good Samaritan, Mary Bridge Children’s and Allenmore hospitals — and three Franciscan Health System facilities — St. Joseph, St. Clare, and St. Anthony hospitals. The exercise scenario includes contamination from an unknown substance from an overturned and punctured tanker truck on I-5. The ‘patients’ will be decontaminated outside each of the hospitals. The exercise will take place between 8:30 a.m. and noon. The decon sites are tents or trailers with shower systems for the patients to be decontaminated.

In addition to the hospitals and the health department, the Regional Hazmat Team (which includes Central Pierce Fire and Rescue and the Lakewood Fire Department) and Madigan Army Medical Center will be observing and evaluating some of the hospital procedures. Also assisting is the Amateur Radio Emergency Services Medical Services Team, Citizen Corps, Emergency Response Training Institute, and the Local Emergency Planning Committee.

Local health facilities are required to hold semi-annual exercises to meet Joint Commission Emergency Management Standards (EM) for accreditation. For the past several years, the hospitals have teamed up with other local agencies to test communication and treatment capacity across the Pierce County region.