By David Knopf/News Editor
On Wednesday, the parking lot at Ray County Hospital looked a bit like extraterrestrials had landed and established a colony.
But it was hospital workers, not aliens, in outfits that resembled space suits. They were dressed that way to train for a scenario in which multiple accident victims must be decontaminated from exposure to gasoline and propane.
“This is something our new hospital administrator (Bob Littleton) wanted,” said Donna Lamar, the hospital’s director of nurses and one organizer of a team of around 30 employees involved in the drill. “If we do this once every five or six years, people will forget.”
Lamar and fellow organizer Jackie DeVaul, an infection-control nurse, said one of Littleton’s goals is to train more frequently for the most likely emergencies. And, Lamar said, in a heavily agricultural area, contimination from fuel spills and exposure to noxious gases and chemicals are everday risks.
“We’ve got two chemical plants right here in town and one right down the road, so that’s his concern,” she said. “We also have farmers who can be covered with gasoline and diesel,” and work with fertilizers containing potent chemicals.
Littleton, department heads and other organizers met Wednesday morning for what they describe as a “tabletop” discussion of what the mock emergency would involve.
Employees were recruited to serve as victims, including one who doubled as a DOA – dead on arrival – and then transitioned to a second role. They wore brightly colored pieces of cardboard that desribed what their injuries were.
Two other employees, Konnie Clancy of environmental services and Stacy Henry, a surgery and emergency-room nurse, were dressed in decontamination suits that made them look a bit like space travelers.
Both nurses have attended special training sessions on decontamination procedures.
Several tents were set up in a line to service as a processing center for deconimation. Receptacles were marked to show where contimated items would be disposed of.
DeVaul surveyed the different stations to make sure the employees were ready and supplies were in the right spots.
“There’s a lot of pretend in it, but it’s important pretend,” DeVaul said. “I’m going to have to go now. They’re ready for the victims.”
Karen Green and Brenda Roberson, both nurses in the emergency room and in surgery, wore bright orange vests with the word “triage” clearly marked across the back. In a real emergency, triage personnel would provide a first line of treatment for those most seriously injured.