Only On 7: San Francisco agencies hold Ebola preparedness drill

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An Ebola preparedness drill held by San Francisco police, fire, and health departments on Monday revealed many strengths and weaknesses.

Let's hope it never happens, but if Ebola makes its way to the Bay Area, the San Francisco police, fire, and health departments are planning to be ready. An Ebola preparedness drill on Monday revealed strengths and weaknesses. It's a story you'll see only on ABC7 News.

Let's begin with the good news -- San Francisco's first Ebola victim was a fire department mannequin and it was all just a drill. Now for the not so good news -- the reason that department staged this event.

"We have to go ahead and look at this as an emerging disease, obviously," said SFFD Assistant Chief Matthew McNaughton. "It's had contacts in the United States. San Francisco is a city that is obviously well-traveled. The chances of having an exposure up here -- we are definitely on the map."

Hence the brass, the scenario, and the protective suits.

Paramedics are accustomed to dealing with accidents, victims, and infectious diseases. But with scenes of medical personnel clad in hazmat suits helping Ebola patients around being played out in various American cities, San Francisco's fire, police, and health departments ran the drill based on best polices from the Centers for Disease Control.

"This involved a mock patient who had returned from an endemic area who was having some confusion and some vomiting," said Clement Yeh, MD, with the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

The goal was to move her from a tower, to an ambulance, and then to San Francisco General Hospital.

San Francisco did not use the tape and plastic just for this drill. It had an ambulance at the ready, just in case.

Freedman: "Is this an if, a when, or we hope it never happens?"
Yeh: "I think this is a hope it doesn't ever happen. But we're certainly ready to be prepared for it."

Among the many lessons -- those suits take half an hour to put on and make everything difficult.

"It is confining, it's hot, definitely difficult to breathe," said SFFD paramedic John Groshon.

But at least they know that going in. No surprises, please. And if the unhappy surprise arrives.

"Back to the regular grind now," said SFFD paramedic Ross O'Reilly. "And if the big one hits, we'll be ready for it."

When the day finished we asked the San Francisco Fire Department to give itself a grade. The assistant chief gave themselves an A minus. They say they need to work on some inter-agency communication and they also need to speed up the process.

For full coverage on the Ebola crisis, click here.
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healthebolacdccenters for disease controlhospitalSFPDpoliceSFFDfirefightersambulanceSan FranciscoSan Francisco General Hospital
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