October 10, 2008

Shake “N’ Quake ‘ Disaster Drill Helps Hospital Prepare for Real Thing

By GAVIN LESNICK Courier & Press staff writer 464-7449 or [email protected]

Sitting in the corner of one of two large wooden crates set up Tuesday in the basement of St. Mary's Medical Center, Carol Kahre pretended to be dead.

The crate looked like an elevator that was broken loose by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake and had come crashing down six stories in the shaft. Kahre and three other volunteers in the crates with her were made to look like victims of such a calamity: blood splattered on their clothes, their limbs rigid and their bodies motionless.

It was one troublesome scenario within a large-scale earthquake drill that the hospital initiated Tuesday and will continue through Friday. The aim is to prepare for the worst before it happens.

Simulating it required more than a few realistic touches. Among them were more than 80 volunteers such as Kahre who donned makeup and played either dead or seriously injured, and a realistic newscast that chronicled the quake's destruction minutes after it struck.

Under the scenario, a powerful magnitude 7.0 quake centered about 100 miles southwest of Evansville shook the entire region, killing dozens and causing rampant destruction.

Keith Kahre, EMS security manager and safety officer for St. Mary's, said practicing the right responses to such disasters are critical. Tornadoes and earthquakes are the most likely disasters in this region, and he said officials believe there is a 10 percent chance an earthquake as powerful as the one in the scenario will happen here in the next 50 years.

"But you just don't know," Keith Kahre said. "So you have to always practice and prepare. The test comes when you have to do it at a real situation."

On Tuesday, nurses, doctors, management members and other staff worked numerous scenarios in the drill: the elevator crash, an overflow of patients in the emergency room, structural damage to a tunnel and the collapse of the loading dock where ambulances pull up.

A wide range of actors played the roles.

Dacie Lindner, 12, sat in an emergency room bed with fake abrasions to her abdomen, face and legs. Her role was a victim injured in a roof collapse at Washington Square Mall.

Meanwhile, Leslie Koonce sported an ugly head wound as one of three actors playing victims hurt in an underground hospital tunnel. She lay on the ground yelling for help until a crew arrived to take her for treatment.

"I think every hospital needs to do (this)," said Koonce, a nursing student at Henderson Community College. "I don't think anybody's ever really prepared for disaster. And this makes them think and take priority."

The initial newscast set the scene for the hospital's leadership staff, who worked the scenario from a command center equipped with phones, computers, radios and more.

The news show came courtesy of the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. Community Link, a broadcast class at Bosse High School. Students worked with WEHT-News25 to create the faux broadcast, including an in-studio aftershock, a report from a correspondent at the wreckage of Roberts Stadium and appearances by real News25 weatherman David Heckard.

Bosse senior Ashley Sperling produced the broadcast and - with the help of a handful of other students - filmed the drill itself on Tuesday. Community Link will air a feature on the drill Oct. 25 on WNIN-PBS9.

"I'm honored," Sperling said of the school's involvement. "I really am. I loved doing it."

Keith Kahre praised the newscast and said it helped create the right atmosphere.

"It adds realism," he said. "It's hard to get into the role- playing because we know it didn't happen... It lets you get into the scenario and understand what you need to do"

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