Humber River Regional Hospital’s mock exercise promotes culture of community safety

Protecting their community from significant public disasters is an important priority for Toronto’s Humber River Regional Hospital (HRRH). One of the ways the hospital informs their community about those efforts is by actually involving members of the public in those preparations.

“It is vital for our hospital, patients and community to be aware of the measures that Humber River will take in the event of any significant emergency situation,” notes Mike Orrico, Humber River’s Manager of Security and Emergency Preparedness. “And we are committed to providing the best education possible to help everyone understand what to do and how to react if disaster strikes. Whenever possible we include community leaders and members of the public in those education initiatives.”

As part of that effort, on September 27, 2007, the hospital conducted a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Mock Disaster exercise. The full-scale exercise, which ran for approximately three hours, took place at Humber River’s Finch Avenue site. It involved many Humber River staff members from across the organization playing a variety of different roles, some outfitted with complete CBRN Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Many community members were also included in the mock disaster. Hospital volunteers and representatives from Toronto EMS and the Toronto Fire Department were joined by a large group of students from Humber River’s neighbouring Westview Centennial High School. The students went through a pre-exercise briefing session – conducted by HRRH security and disaster management team leaders – and were given detailed instructions on what to expect and the importance of their participation in this training initiative. “It was a good experience. It makes me feel good that there are people who will know what to do in case of an emergency,” says Westview Centennial student Joseph Rusk. “I would like to participate again next year.”

“Our students enjoyed being a part of an exercise that has an impact on both their school and their community as a whole,” says Brenda Ryan, Special Education teacher at Westview Centennial Secondary School. “Not only did we learn something new about the important work that goes on at our local hospital, but we used the opportunity to discuss why emergency preparedness practices are necessary, and how they will affect us now and in the future. One student has even decided to research a career in nursing, based on her morning at Humber River!”

Humber River Regional Hospital has been designated as a level two hospital by the Ontario government, which means that it has to be ready to decontaminate up to sixty possible CBRN casualties at any one time, day or night, 365 days a year.

“Hospitals are about high quality patient care first and foremost, but they are also institutions of learning and knowledge sharing,” explains HRRH President & CEO Dr. Rueben Devlin. “These types of exercises are not only great practice for our staff and physicians, but an excellent opportunity to educate our community. We encourage participants to take their experience and share it with family and friends, helping us reach out and educate the entire population we serve.”

“We are extremely happy with results of the exercise,” noted Orrico. “We thank the students from Westview Centennial Secondary School, the many community volunteers and our staff for their keen participation in this event. It was wonderful to see the level of enthusiasm and commitment from everyone. We’re ready.”