Town To Conduct Mock Disaster Drill

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Nobody minds that Payson's various disaster-preparedness teams didn't get to test their respective hometown strategies during the Rodeo-Chediski Fire.

Still, practice makes perfect. So Thursday, they'll participate in a disaster drill that will simulate an all-too-familiar situation: a raging wildfire and a hospital evacuation.

The drill, set to begin at 2:30 p.m., will involve staff from Payson Regional Medical Center, the Payson Police and Payson Fire Departments, LifeStar Ambulance and Native Air.

"We are required to participate in two mock-disaster drills per year," Jim Heskett, emergency base station coordinator for PRMC, said. "The scenario of wildfire was chosen because of the real threat it poses in our area, and because it allows us to incorporate learning from the evacuation of Navapache Regional Medical Center (in Show Low) into our own evacuation plan."

The drill, which will take between one and two hours to complete, will begin with the receipt of a 24-hour evacuation order. No actual patients will be disturbed during the drill; cardboard torsos will be used to simulate actual patients who will be transferred to Payson Airport via three helicopters from Native Air, along with three ambulance units and a 15-passenger van from LifeStar.

The drill will cease at that point. In the event of a real evacuation, however, patients would be transported from Payson Airport to hospitals in other areas of the state.

Although additional air and ground transportation would be required in the event of an actual evacuation, drill organizers are confident that the resources to be used Thursday will thoroughly test their evacuation plan, as well as PRMC's ability to continue to treat emergency room and diagnostic patients during such an evacuation.

"We hope this is a scenario that will never be acted out for real," Heskett said, "but it is in our patients' best interest that we are fully prepared in that actuality."

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