While Gordon County was spared such disaster during the spring storms, emergency personnel want to be prepared in case of a serious weather situation here in the future.
To get the ball rolling, Gordon Hospital, 911 and emergency personnel from around the county came together for a disaster drill at the hospital Wednesday morning.
The tornado that hit Joplin on May 22 tore through St. John’s Regional Medical Center, knocking out the hospital’s backup generator, “leaving ventilators and other medical equipment without power in dark rooms,” according to a New York Times article published May 23.
Local hospital and emergency response teams chose to simulate a similar situation.
“We’ve done a lot of planning and we decided that we would simulate that the ICU at the hospital got hit (by a tornado),” said Gordon County Emergency Management Director Richard Cooper, “and we had to evacuate the patients that were trapped and take them to an alternate care site.”
During the drill, the fire departments (both city and county) were first on the scene, as planned.
“They entered the disaster area first to determine that it was safe enough for everyone else to go into the structure,” said Cooper. “Once they deemed it safe, the EMS (Emergency Medical Service) came in and started evacuating patients.”
The Gordon County Schools Transportation Department participated in the drill by providing a school bus to transport patients from the disaster area to the alternate care station.
“The critical patients were transported by ambulance,” said Cooper. “Everyone was taken to Gordon County Fire Station 3, where nurses were waiting to receive them.”
He said one of the successes of the drill was the decision by the county fire department to allow storage areas at a couple of their stations for medical equipment in case of an emergency.
“A lot of the fire departments have generators,” said Cooper. “So if the power goes out, they can still run that vital equipment just like the hospital.”
Law enforcement contributed to the drill by making sure there was limited access to the disaster area. However, sometimes police officers’ jobs can become much more involved, Cooper said.
“They may also be the first on the scene,” he said, “which means they might actually have to remove some victims or take care of them until EMS can get on the scene.”
The drill involved about 60-70 people including Gordon Hospital employees, EMS, Gordon Sheriff’s Office, Calhoun City Police, Gordon County Emergency Management, Georgia State Patrol, 911 employees, Calhoun City Fire Department, Gordon County Fire Department and actors.
The 911 communications building was also involved in the disaster drill.
“We simulated that the tornado took out their radio towers and power so they had no way of communicating,” said Cooper. “Their generator was also affected by the tornado. They had to evacuate to the mobile command unit and use everything in the mobile command as their 911 center.”
Overall, Cooper considered the drill a success.
”It went really well,” he said. “I was really impressed with how well it went.”