Last month's disaster drill at Blue Mountain Hospital allowed hospital staff to work with fire and rescue crews, law enforcement, EMT's and safety managers from the White Mesa Mill, during a mock incident.
The training was held on Friday, November 15. The premise of the drill involved a mock accident, in which a tanker truck, hauling sulfuric acid, collided with an SUV near Shirt Tail Corner. The truck driver, the three people in the SUV, a pair of good Samaritans, who stopped to help, one firefighter and another victim were all exposed to sulfuric acid that leaked from the truck onto the roadway. Officials explained that under actual circumstances, sulfuric acid on the highway would look like water, and anyone not aware of the situation might be inadvertently exposed.
The victims wore some very convincing make-up (done by Etta Shumway) to make them look like they had been exposed to acid.
The drill began with a page by the San Juan County Sheriff's Office, requesting law enforcement, ambulance, fire and rescue personnel to respond to the mock accident. Members of the Blanding Volunteer Fire Department set up a decontamination area across the street from Blue Mountain Hospital, where victims could have the acid washed from them. Two firefighters in decontamination suits were there to scrub, and spray the victims down. Afterward, victims were taken by ambulance to the hospital's emergency room entrance. Some were placed in an ambulance and taken to another decontamination area at the hospital, where their clothes were removed and they received a shower, before moving into the emergency room. Those marked as 'walking wounded' made their way to the hospital on foot, before receiving help.
Inside the hospital, medical providers, nurses and other hospital staff cared for the patients as they came into the emergency room. The drill, and the actions of those involved, were monitored by employees of All Clear Emergency Management Group, from Raleigh, North Carolina. All Clear Emergency Management Group observes drills such as this all over the country, and evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of those involved in the drill. The goal is to help improve the response time and care of patients involved in emergency situations.
Hospital officials said the exercise was a valuable learning tool. The lessons learned during the training actually allowed hospital staff to make improvements to some critical procedures, when needed for a real disaster just three days later. On Monday, November 18, the hospital treated 28 patients from Montezuma Creek Elementary School, who were affected by severe carbon monoxide poisoning.
"The training went really well and everyone did a good job," said BMH Director of Clinical
Services Kent Turek. "It helped us recognize areas where we could improve. We actually turned those areas into strengths during a real event the next week. It was really awesome. I can't say enough good things about the way things worked out."