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Santa Barbara County Agencies Test Readiness in Earthquake Disaster Drill

More than 80 medical personnel spend three hours participating in an emergency evacuation and shelter exercise

Personnel from Santa Barbara County emergency agencies evaluate mock patients with faux medical issues during an earthquake disaster drill Wednesday at the UCSB Events Center.

Personnel from Santa Barbara County emergency agencies evaluate mock patients with faux medical issues during an earthquake disaster drill Wednesday at the UCSB Events Center.  (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff |

Patients began to slowly trickle into a makeshift medical shelter at the UCSB Events Center on Wednesday afternoon, each armed with a list of faux health issues and an emergency volunteer at the elbow.

It wasn’t your typical earthquake scenario, but more than 80 medical personnel from agencies throughout Santa Barbara County spent three hours Wednesday pretending that the evacuation and sheltering exercise was far from a mock drill.

Two dozen “victims” were steered through a sea of yellow-, red- and black-vested volunteers from intake to bed assignment and evaluation in an effort to prepare emergency staff for the shift in roles and hierarchy that would occur after a disaster evacuation.

“This is a great collaboration,” said Nancy Lapolla, Santa Barbara County EMS agency director who served as the drill’s public information officer. “It really is an opportunity to get together and practice together. None of us can do it alone. We’re always looking for ways to do better.”

Wednesday’s drill included participants from Santa Barbara County Public Health, UCSB Student Health, Direct Relief International, the Medical Reserve Corps, the American Red Cross, CERT volunteers and the Independent Living Resource Center.

A volunteer patient explains the medical problems she and her
A volunteer patient explains the medical problems she and her “baby” have been experiencing during Wednesday’s earthquake disaster drill. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Lapolla said emergency efforts made during the collaborative drill, which typically takes place once a year, would be evaluated at the conclusion of the exercise to ensure there were no fundamental issues.

Attentive volunteers listened as visibly distraught mock patients attempted to communicate pre-existing medical conditions, including hypertension, diabetes and the need for an oxygen tank. Personnel then made determinations of what higher level of care evacuees needed.

Planning selection chief Suzette Chefey, typically a hospice nurse, said she was serving on the Medical Reserve Corps for the drill to help evaluate what resources were needed, the logistics of getting patients to the hospital, and any other aspects that could be changed for next year or the next disaster.

Instead of using paper sheets for medical cots, for example, personnel should consider a different material that won’t stick to sweaty patients, Chefey said.

“In (Hurricane) Katrina, so many people showed up wanting to help,” she said, noting that Medical Reserve Corps volunteers would already know what to do and where to go. “When an event happens, we are ready to support. We can hit the ground.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.




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» on 05.16.13 @ 01:45 PM

I hope we didn’t pay any overtime on a drill that volunteers could handle.
More government waste????

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