Tuesday, May 31 , 2016, 9:57 pm | Overcast 57º

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

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.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk's intent is not to limit the discussion of our stories but to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and must be free of profanity and abusive language and attacks.

By posting on Noozhawk, you:

» Agree to be respectful. Noozhawk encourages intelligent and impassioned discussion and debate, but now has a zero-tolerance policy for those who cannot express their opinions in a civil manner.

» Agree not to use Noozhawk’s forums for personal attacks. This includes any sort of personal attack — including, but not limited to, the people in our stories, the journalists who create these stories, fellow readers who comment on our stories, or anyone else in our community.

» Agree not to post on Noozhawk any comments that can be construed as libelous, defamatory, obscene, profane, vulgar, harmful, threatening, tortious, harassing, abusive, hateful, sexist, racially or ethnically objectionable, or that are invasive of another’s privacy.

» Agree not to post in a manner than emulates, purports or pretends to be someone else. Under no circumstances are readers posting to Noozhawk to knowingly use the name or identity of another person, whether that is another reader on this site, a public figure, celebrity, elected official or fictitious character. This also means readers will not knowingly give out any personal information of other members of these forums.

» Agree not to solicit others. You agree you will not use Noozhawk’s forums to solicit and/or advertise for personal blogs and websites, without Noozhawk’s express written approval.

Noozhawk’s management and editors, in our sole discretion, retain the right to remove individual posts or to revoke the access privileges of anyone who we believe has violated any of these terms or any other term of this agreement; however, we are under no obligation to do so.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.


Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.