Local hospitals conduct terrorism disaster drills

November 16, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

El Centro Regional Medical Center and Pioneers Memorial Hospital took part in a disaster drill Thursday meant to review their ability to react to terrorism should it strike the Imperial Valley.

El Centro Fire Department Battalion Chief Tim Reel said the scenario for the drill involved terrorists transporting sarin gas across the border into the United States.

Reel said, according to the scenario the terrorists were driving through the downtown Port of Entry in Calexico with a barrel of the deadly nerve gas.

Border authorities stopped the terrorists' vehicle and directed them into the secondary inspection area.

The terrorists then bolted north in their vehicle through the port to avoid arrest. As they left, the barrel of gas fell from the vehicle bursting open.


In the drill, the lethal gas killed several Imperial Valley residents, calling for victims to be transported to the two hospitals. Both facilities had to deal with treating the victims even as portions of the hospitals became infected.

Most of the scenario up to that point was played out on paper, as part of the organization for the drill.

The physical part of the drill took place at the two hospitals as staffers reviewed their ability to handle the deaths and injuries.

Nursing students from Imperial Valley College acted as victims, according to Reel.

In Brawley, Pioneers Hospital received 17 patients as part of the scenario. Of those, seven died, five were admitted and five were treated and released.

However, the hospital added an element to the scenario.

Clyde Carson, patient relations representative for Pioneers, said the hospital — in trying to make the scenario as real as possible — had 10 of its first-responding staff become infected and die from their efforts to treat the victims.

Carson said the goal of the project was to test the hospital's ability to deal with such a situation.

"It was very thought provoking," Carson said.

Reel said Thursday's drill was important in light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the concern over terrorists using biological warfare in the future.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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