INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana - Preparation and adaptation are vital components in responding to mass casualty incidents sparked by large-scale disasters. On April 30, Franciscan Health Indianapolis was put to the test in responding to such a scenario – "Operation Guardian Response" - in a Department of Defense exercise involving other federal and local agencies.
Several of the hospital's staff participated in the day-long drill, including the Emergency Department, Nursing, Indiana Blood & Marrow Transplant (IBMT), Imaging, Patient Registration, Disaster Management, Security and Safety, Administrators on Call, EMS Education and Marketing and Communications. Local public health agencies, Roudebush VA Medical Center and the MESH Coalition also participated in their respective ways.
The scenario was a bleak one – terrorists in the Detroit area had detonated a "dirty" nuclear devlce and some survivors were exposed to ionizing radiation and showing signs of its health effects. Franciscan Health was put on alert to be prepared for the victims based on IBMT's storied work in blood-related disorders and the hospital's many capabilities. Upon notification, the hospital activated its Incident Command Center, prepared for patients and notified sister hospitals in Mooresville and Carmel should further support be needed.
Indiana National Guard members and a joint military team from Muscatatuck Urban Training Center played roles as both medics and patients. They had been flown to Indiana's Camp Atterbury before transport to the south side hospital. Other military members were on hand to serve as observers of the exercise.
Throughout the day, they arrived in shifts aboard military combat ambulances. When the 23 patients arrived at the ER, they were quickly registered, triaged and given medical assessments as to the level of their radiation exposure and other injuries. Some required simulated isolation and hospitalization; others were treated and released.
Meanwhile in the Incident Command Center, the team was in constant communication with ER and other hospital units to coordinate logistics and adapt to the ever-changing situation.
"Exercises such as Guardian Response are vital in preparing for any external emergency and yet maintain continued hospital operations," said Kara Solomon, disaster management coordinator for Franciscan Health in central Indiana.