ST. LOUIS - Chemical and nuclear exposure can be deadly, not only to the person exposed but to caregivers. In the event of a large scale exposure, Mercy Hospital St. Louis would activate its Hazardous Operations Team made up of volunteers from various hospital departments.
To ensure this team is prepared when the time comes, Mercy recently held a drill to practice procedure for hazardous events such as radiation exposure or chemical spill.
“In an exercise like this, we are constantly learning and making adjustments,” said Jeff Hamilton, Mercy’s regional manager of emergency management. “We want all of the team to know what it feels like and how to react if they were called upon for a true emergency."
To decontaminate, patients must go through a state-of-the-art, military-style tent that contains specialty shower heads and water jets as well as a conveyer roller system for those who are unconscious. They will remove clothing and go through a massive showering and soaping down process. The process keeps the contaminant out of the hospital and from spreading to the caregivers.
During the recent drill, the team members practiced setting up the tent and decontaminating volunteer “victims” before they entered the emergency department. All team members dressed in their personal protective equipment, or hazmat suits. In addition, the nuclear medicine department also tested the ability to detect radiation levels on patients.
Mercy Hospital St. Louis implements two disaster drills annually, one of which is in conjunction with the St. Louis Area Regional Response System. In addition, Mercy’s Search and Rescue Team and HOT Team each have annual drills to test their management of various disaster-related scenarios.