Clay County First Responders Hold Disaster Drill

Thursday, April 11, 2013
First responders tend to the victims of the disaster drill April 3 in Piggott.

First responders from across Clay County took part in a disaster drill Wednesday, April 3 in Piggott. The drill was planned by Piggott Community Hospital in conjunction with the Piggott Fire Department, Clay County Haz-Mat Unit, Piggott P.D. and Clay County Sheriff's Department.

The drill was staged around mid-morning on the grounds of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Piggott, with high school students and hospital employees serving as the victims. Under the scenario a semi-truck had been tipped-over by a tornado, spilling its load of chemicals and exposing eight individuals.

Upon arrival members of the Piggott Fire Department cordoned off the immediate area due to the contamination, and set up roadblocks to prevent motorists from driving onto the scene. Due to the spill, ambulance personnel were required to keep their distance until the identity of the chemical could be determined.

The Haz-Mat response unit was then summoned, and a decontamination area established on the church parking lot. The Haz-Mat unit is comprised of firefighters from across the county, with personnel from Piggott, Rector and Corning taking part in last week's drill.

EMT's where then allowed to triage the victims, which were suffering from a variety of injuries in addition to being exposed to the dangerous chemical. Based on the extent of their injuries, they were then moved to the decontamination area and transported to the Piggott Community Hospital emergency room for treatment.

The hospital also followed a scripted scenario in its response to the emergency, and treatment of the victims. "Our part of the drill actually started earlier in the day when we were alerted about the chance of a tornado," noted Brian Nagy, hospital preparedness and safety coordinator for PCH. "We followed the preparedness plan, and then responded to the incident."

The scenarios are part of the Northeast Arkansas Hospital Emergency Preparedness Full Scale Exercises, and are coordinated by the Local Emergency Planning Committee of each county. Nagy is the hospital's representative on that committee.

"We had seven patients that were transported from the drill scene to the hospital, another three walked into the E.R. and three were deceased at the scene," he explained.

The hospital conducts such drills once a year, allowing local planners the chance to see what works well and what needs improvement. "We are always looking at both our strengths and weaknesses, and trying to make better plans for the next year," Nagy added. "The drills also give us a chance to build better working relationships with our community partners."

The most recent drill also served to test the communication network among the county's first responders, a key to success in times of disaster. "In any situation communications can be the greatest challenge," Nagy surmised. "It's another important area where we look at both our strengths and weaknesses."

Based on the early feedback, the drill was a success. "All in all, I'd have to say the drill went well," Nagy concluded.

The annual drills are also required of the hospital due to a grant process, as they receive funding each year to coordinate and implement local emergency response efforts.

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