RENO — A team of emergency medical technicians quickly snapped into action after a truck carrying a trailer filled with radioactive materials collided with a minivan Thursday afternoon.
In a matter of minutes, an Emergency Mobile Medical Facility — a tent-like unit that can be deployed instantly in instances when additional hospital space and beds are needed in unusual circumstances — was erected in an open concrete lot next to the Renown Regional Medical Center.
Although the scenario was staged, the practice felt real to the 20 emergency medical personnel who responded outside. In the drill, the woman driver appeared dazed and confused. Some had obvious injuries and others did not. To the onlooker, it all seemed real.
“I think everyone was excited,” said Michael Munda, emergency management planner for Renown Health. “The whole reason we did this was, God forbid, there should be some kind of radioactive spill or some spill, we would want to be prepared for patients or employees. We would all need to be operative for some kind of incident.”
Washoe County’s Health District provided the Emergency Mobile Medical Facility, which can be trucked into any area far and wide across the state. The health district was able to purchase the mobile facility through a grant provided by the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.
“We trained on the set-up of the piece of equipment as part of the emergency preparedness grant,” said the health district’s spokesman Phil Ulibarri. “The more you practice, the better you get at what you’re doing. It just helps you get better and better.”
Volunteers, donned in makeup simulating wounds, were showered and triaged into the Emergency Mobile Medical Facility, and treated like real patients with serious needs, said Dan Davis, spokesman for Renown Health.
Seven county health district staff were present at the event to assist as the emergency medical center was erected and put to use to treat the “injured” crash victims Thursday. It was all part of the test of the mobilization and setup of the unit which is a 22-foot by 42-foot, 20-patient tent-like facility. Emergency workers were able to move mobile beds into the structure, decontaminate volunteer patients to be treated in the mobile unit and finish the drill by repacking it for future use.
The drill was a collaboration with the county health district,, Medical Reserve corps, Community Emergency Response Team and Renown Health.
Volunteer patients, recruited from the Academy of Arts, Career and Technology in Reno, were run through decontamination showers before placed into the tent to be provided medical care.
“What we learned is that our partnerships with the community are essential,” Munda said. “Reno Fire was there, Washoe county was there, our Emergency Manager for Washoe County was there, our Washoe County Health District preparedness liaison officer was there, Doctor Randall Todd (Washoe County’s Epidemiologist) was there. We need to continue these drills because in real life, that is what we would happen. We would use all of these resources at the time.”
The group experienced “no hiccups” during the emergency drill, Munda said.
“Everything went really fabulous,” he said. “It was an opportunity for new employees to also train with the decontamination team.”
Ulibarri suggests preparing a personal emergency kit for homes in the event of major disasters. The county health district provides suggestions on preparing kits on its website.
“We encourage people to be prepared and self-reliant,” Ulibarri said.
To learn more about home or personal emergency preparedness, visit www.washoecounty.us/health/php/index.php.