Center: Drilling For Disaster

Payson medical center, police, fire departments use

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It is a quiet morning at Payson Regional Medical Center. There are more than a few open parking spots. The overcast from earlier has left the pavement and concrete cool. Nothing is out of place. There is no hint of impending disaster.

There never is.

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A "victim" of a mock meth lab explosion leaves the decontamination tent set up on the grounds of Payson Regional Medical Center. PRMC staff and the Payson fire and police departments took part in the disaster drill June 25.

That is why the staff at PRMC drills. So, when a disaster does strike, they will be prepared to give the injured victims the care they need without putting other patients and hospital personnel at risk.

The hospital staff, partnering with the Payson police and fire departments conducted such a drill this week.

There is a drill every year, Cory Houghton, marketing director and public information officer for the exercise said.

"Every disaster is different," she said.

This year the scenario was an explosion at a methamphetamine lab resulting in exposure to a number of minors. Many of the "victims" underwent decontamination in the field by fire department personnel. About 10 were transported to PRMC for further decontamination.

As part of the drill a decontamination tent was erected in the heliport and the "victims" were further treated as a precaution before being taken into the emergency room for evaluation and treatment.

This precaution was made so as not to expose other patients and PRMC staff to any dangerous chemicals the victims may be carrying from the scene of the explosion.

"We saw a vast improvement in our response," Houghton said. She attributed the improvement to the increased level of training made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The training has included becoming familiar with the National Incident Management System, she said.

Not all PRMC personnel could participate in the drill, but 14 members of the staff were members of the "Decon Team" with plenty of other staff and volunteers assisting in different areas. In addition to Payson's fire and police departments, participants also included staff from LifeStar Ambulance and the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department.

Native Air also helped out, by moving its helicopter from the heliport so the PRMC decontamination tent could be in a "secured" location.

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