Emergency preparedness: Plane crash emergency exercise


Providence Health Care (PHC) continues to lead the way in emergency preparation with its participation in a recent mock plane crash scenario. Emergency preparedness is at the forefront of PHC minds, not only because disasters like these are imminent, but because the 2010 Olympic Games are looming and with Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital (SPH) being an official hospital venue, staff need to be well prepared for any kind of stress to services.

Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services (VFRS) led the mock plane crash exercise, which involved 10 other agencies including SPH, E-COMM, Vancouver Police Department, BC Forest Services and the City of Vancouver.

Casualties (actors covered in fake blood) were transported from the crash site at Brockton Oval in Stanley Park to a mock emergency room set up in the courtyard at St. Paul’s Hospital so as to not disturb the real emergency room services. Here, emergency staff determined the order and priority of emergency treatment based upon the special needs of each victim brought in from this mass-casualty setting.

Jeanette Beattie, Leader, Emergency Preparedness Program at PHC, believes it’s important to educate staff through participation in drills and simulations, “Exercises are invaluable tools for identifying gaps, determining remedies and validating current processes.”

Emergency nurses and physicians were able to use this as an opportunity to test and validate triage roles, to test the role of admitting clerks and to engage Access Services in identifying bed space at SPH as well as Mount Saint Joseph Hospital (MSJ). MSJ staff used this opportunity to discuss the “real time” situation at their hospital and what they would need to do to accommodate patients from SPH if a real disaster were to occur. Two residential sites sent observers to participate in the exercise, providing a great opportunity for them to find out what goes on at acute sites during a code orange and how their sites could be of support.

One participant on the triage team noted how quickly they were able to find their groove during the simulation, and their triage response became more efficient as the exercise progressed. The no-fault environment allowing players to train and practice for real emergencies, in turn, decreases anxiety during real-life incidents.

SPH staff observers were provided with clipboard, task sheet and a Disaster Observer Tag. Their role was to objectively observe a segment of the action (ie. Admitting clerks) and note the response and communication flow. Participants were provided with vests (reflecting Hospital Emergency Incident Command System positions), t-shirts or special tags depending on their role. PHC Media services and VFRS were both shooting footage of the disaster scenario to be used for future training.

The exercise provided a valuable opportunity for agencies to work together and learn how to prepare, react and communicate in a disaster situation. Each agency has its own response system and when brought together, flawless communication amongst all parties is the key to a successful response.

The scenario, which lasted four hours in total, was a great success and helped strengthen Providence Health Care as an organization.

The next multi-agency, functional exercise will occur in November as Exercise Gold, in preparation for the Olympic Games. Between now and then, a variety of smaller exercises, drills and demonstrations will take place with acute sites focusing on radiation and decontamination and residential sites focusing on code green evacuation.