UAB Hospital prepares for when disaster strikes

Maintaining emergency awareness and being prepared is a year-round activity.

UAB Hospital works year-round to be prepared when disaster strikes.

Recently, UAB Hospital employees, along with other national, state and local agencies, participated in a multistate drill to practice and test the team’s ability to provide continued, world-class patient care if things go wrong. The National Guard Bureau’s Patriot Exercise Program is an NGB-accredited and -funded training program that focuses on joint operations with state, county and local responders and allows soldiers and airmen the ability to train to their military domestic operations requirements.

UAB Hospital and UAB Medical West were among four Birmingham-area hospitals participating in the exercise as part of the National Disaster Medical System.

“The importance of preparing ourselves and those around us is universal whether at home or at work,” said UAB Medicine Manager of Emergency Preparedness Bill Mayfield. “Maintaining emergency awareness and being prepared is a year-round activity. Deliberate preparation and practice improve performance when an emergency or disaster strikes.”

In addition to UAB medical staff participating in emergency-scenarios, nursing and administrative staff served as patient actors to provide first responders with experience in transporting victims and triaging on the scene.

Patient actors were assigned a random injury — broken legs, radiation sickness and more — related to the disaster laid out in the scenario and were carried by first responders on stretchers to a triage area at the first site of the exercise. After the severity of the injuries was determined, patients were assigned a local hospital to be transported to. The actors were then transported en masse on special multipatient ambulances to be assessed by UAB Department of Emergency Medicine staff.

In addition to UAB Hospital’s being recognized by the American College of Surgeons as the only Level 1 trauma center for adults in Alabama, Mayfield says the UAB Health System is one of the largest academic medical centers in the nation, providing tertiary-level care to patients well beyond the state’s borders.

“It is critical that we continue to provide critical services even during emergencies,” Mayfield said. “UAB works daily to establish and maintain positive working relationships with local, state and national emergency agencies and organizations, and we actively seek their input for our hazard vulnerability and risk assessments and our preparedness planning processes.”

A special thanks to the Alabama Air National Guard at Sumpter Smith Air National Guard Base and the VHA Office of Emergency Management for allowing UAB Public Relations to participate and photograph during the training exercise.