Preparing for Medical Emergencies

Things were busy Thursday in and around Offutt Air Force Base as part of a national drill to test preparedness for medical emergencies.

It began around 9 a.m. The idea was to prepare for the medical effects of a major peacetime disaster.

Mock patients were transported to the VA Hospital as part of the drill. Other hospitals were involved as well.

In case of a national emergency the Omaha Veterans Administration Medical Center would be a regional coordinator, but everything will start over in Bellevue. Patients would be air-lifted into Offutt Air Force Base which would serve as the local patient reception area.

This is the first step of the National Disaster Medical System exercise.

Meanwhile, back at the VA, a disaster team was making plans to receive the patients. In Thursday’s scenario there was a massive power outage in Chicago and the metro had to take medical patients from the Windy City.

Emergency Manager James Jenkins said, “This event could happen any day and that’s one of the things we practiced. We do several exercises a year. Our emergency operation center for the VA is up and running and we do several exercises.”

Four area hospitals participated in Thursday’s drill. Some of the patients were transported to the VA. The medical staff says it’s good to practice just in case.

Dr. Scott Menolascino said, “If you don’t practice for something you’re not magically going to rise to a level of expertise that you haven’t trained for. So this allows us to make sure that we constantly work on improving are readiness, makes sure we improve our care delivery especially for those things we don’t get to see on a regular basis.”

Medical officials say they hope they never have to deal with the real thing but if they do this exercise will make sure they’re ready.

Omaha is one of 70 federal coordinating centers in the country. A National Disaster Medical System exercise is conducted once every three years.

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