Emergency Drill At Medical Center

"Do you know what it was?," a Nacogdoches Medical Center nurse asks. "Chlorine," a young boy answers. "You got chlorine on you. You have trouble breathing?," responds the health care worker. "Yeah," said a most unusually calm and collected 'patient'.

Such was the dialogue at an emergency preparedness drill Thursday afternoon at Nacogdoches Medical Center.

The simulated chlorine spill provides the hospital's Bio terrorism Decontamination Team, (that was formed after Sept. 11th), an opportunity to finish its annual refresher training. The drill is also a requirement of hospital certification and Tenet Healthcare.

During the event you see one common element of an emergency drill and a real emergency. It's called chaotic order.

A crowd of incoming patients played by high school students from Nacogdoches and Douglass create chatter in the hospital lobby. Over that you hear health professionals barking out orders like, "We need some information!", "He needs to go to ER now!"

County, state, and hospital evaluators keep an eye on things.

Drill Evaluator Phillip Anderson utilizes the 20 years he spent as an ambulance paramedic to help him with his observations. "I like to look at the big picture because a lot of times we overlook the small things. As photographer of this event I hope to look to see if we might have missed something small in the background."

East Texas emergency workers could take simulated drills lightly after working so hard during the very real disaster when the Columbia shuttle came down.

Safety Director Jeff Scarboro believes that incident reinforces the drill's importance. "The shuttle was an awakening. That, yes, we are in Nacogdoches, but things can happen here."

Every aspect of emergency care is tested in this kind of drill. It's the place to make mistakes. Better here, then during a real emergency believes Scarboro. "We have a major trauma area where heart attacks, severe health issues would be sent. We have a minimum care area that we send fractures to and another area where we send burns."

A major disaster isn't easy to pretend and sometimes it's difficult keeping a straight face, but everyone knows it's always better to be prepared.