Training, preparation keeps hospitals, first responders prepared for the worst

Health officials give sneak peak of the ways they prepare for emergency situations

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Leaders in the healthcare field say you perform as you train and that makes responding to serious situations, like the evacuation of Dutchtown High School Thursday morning, second nature.

“It’s going to be chaotic. It’s just going to be organized chaos,” said Justin Cox, operating manager for Acadian Ambulance.

A potential crime scene can bring its own set of problems, but mass causalities of any kind prompt a different response from first responders.

“The objective is to move the greatest number of patients in the shortest period of time to appropriate hospitals,” Cox said.

It sounds pretty simple when Cox, a veteran paramedic, explains it, but a lot of training goes into pulling it off. After paramedics arrive at a scene, patients are categorized based on their injuries. Cox says red is the most critical, with green being when a patient is stable, but with injuries, such as a broken arm. Paramedics on the scene then connect with a statewide database, Louisiana Emergency Response Network (LEARN), to figure out where the patient should go next.

“It gives you the access to a hospital that’s best able to treat that patient,” Cox explained. “They’ll look at the hospital boards that they have access to across the whole state and tell you where to bring those particular patients to.”

Hospitals frequently conduct training drills in order to be prepared for potential mass casualty situations.
Hospitals frequently conduct training drills in order to be prepared for potential mass casualty situations. (Source: WAFB)

That decision, Cox says, is based on whether the hospital can handle a patient’s level of trauma and the need to spread patients out to match them with the best facilities and avoid overloading the hospitals.

Cox says someone working at the network will tell the paramedic where to bring the patient.

“Based on that category and of course their vital signs and how they present," Cox said.

Because Our Lady of the Lake is a level two trauma center, several patients land there.

“We see, on any given day, several traumas come to our organization,” said Stephanie Mason, chief operating officer for OLOL. “We also have a dedicated pediatric emergency room.”

Mason says immediately after OLOL receives a report of a mass causality, they begin to access what’s available.

“Access our staffing, what operations rooms are available, what supplies we have on hand, depending on how large it is,” Mason said.

That also includes calling in extra staff members to help if needed, she adds. Mason says they plan for serious events through training and when more patients with life-threatening injuries come through their doors, it turns into a team effort.

“We have the ability to ramp up and flex up and so you might have to stop a surgery that was planned in order to take care of an emergency. We might call in extra staff,” Mason said.

That effort extends beyond the walls of OLOL to hospitals across the state, because when immediate care is needed, it’s all hands on deck.

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