Santa Clara practices disaster drill

September 11, 2008 6:53:45 PM PDT
Knowing how to react to a terrorist attack was a key lesson learned following September 11th, but it was a coincidence that Santa Clara County held its homeland security training on Thursday.

The drill was a simulated domestic terror attack on a hospital.

"We potentially have a blast that occurred in an area of the generator at the rear of the hospital," said an man though a walkie talkie.

A car bomb knocked out power to a facility that depends on it to save lives.

"So in this case the hospital is what we call black and unavailable to take care of itself and its patients," said Chief Ron Vega, from the Santa Clara County Fire Department.

Four hundred people were part of a homeland security exercise aimed at securing the building and transporting 54 patients to other hospitals.

The incident played out at a now closed hospital in Morgan Hill, offering various agencies and medical personal from 12 hospitals, a unique opportunity for realistic training.

"To my knowledge this has never been done before in Santa Clara. I'm not even sure if it's been done before in the state of California. It's probably been done very few times in the country," said Bruce lee, an emergency medical services director.

These multi-agency training operations got an even higher priority after the events of September 11th and equipment in the field has also gotten more sophisticated.

Specifically, one newer piece of technology being tested was a patient tracking system called EM Track. It costs $200,000 and was funded by a homeland security grant.

A bar code internet based system alerts hospitals how many patients are in route and exactly their condition. The system can be used in any disaster including an earthquake.

"This devise is a camera so in large scale events we can take pictures of people we don't know their name and bring families back together if their looking for a missing person," said Josh Davies, from a emergency medical services agency.

The chaos that played out in the drill is intended to save lives in the future.

"I think this is a great experience it will give us an idea of how to move our patients, what can go wrong and plan ahead," said Vickie Arnolde, from Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

First responders say there is no better tribute to their fallen comrades than to be prepared.


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