Note: All photos enlarge if you click them. I write this in hopes those in areas without the resources to run a mock medical exercise can learn a few lessons from my experience at this one. I was a volunteer mock victim at a Baltimore Federal Coordination Center (FCC) under the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) sponsored a full-scale exercise at BWI Airport on 12 May 2012. This exercise was different because it was focused on medical evacuation and treatment.
The full exercise plan is at the bottom of this blog entry, but here is a synopsis: "Purpose: The purpose of this exercise is to evaluate the Baltimore NDMS FCC Plan to receive medical evacuees and asses associated player actions against current response plans and training. Scope: The scope of play for the Baltimore NDMS FSE requires the activation of the Baltimore NDMS FCC and implementation of the Baltimore FCC NDMS Plan through establishing a Unified Command and positioning responders in the field to perform those actions associated with NDMS activation. The scope of play for the Baltimore NDMS FSE requires command and control, communications, on-site incident management, coordination of victim reception, triage, and transport to the Maryland NDMS hospitals.
The Baltimore FCC exercise will be conducted at mid field Cargo Area at 1200 Mathison Way BWI on Saturday May 12th, 2012 in response to a notional earthquake in Kansas City. The exercise is scheduled for 5 hours beginning at 0840 am. It is a critical element in providing the multi-agency training necessary to ensure proficiency of collaboration efforts on the part of all the Patient Reception team members that are required to respond to activation. During the exercise activation response personnel are able to work together to further enhance inter-service knowledge and enhance outside agency familiarization with the National Disaster Medical System. Goals: 1. Meet the National Disaster Medical System requirement to hold a full-scale exercise every three years. 2. Test the Baltimore Federal Coordination Center Plan. 3. Test the activation, response of patient reception, triage, transport, and tracking of volunteer mock patients." My takeaways:
The plan was carried out in a tight, professional, and rigorous manner.
All players (local, state, federal, medical, transportation, military, airport personal, fire and ambulance companies) knew their roles and played them well.
The medical team I met at the Sinai Hospital was confident, knowledgeable, courteous, and fast.
I'm confident that if muslim terrorists, natural disasters, hurricanes, tornadoes, or any of the other hundreds of events that make up the American threat matrix hit, these professionals will handle it competently, professionally, courteously, and quickly.
My cousin, a homicide detective in Philadelphia, once told me: "People say detectives are heroes. We're not the heroes. The real heroes are those doctors, nurses and staff who work in emergency rooms where I visit to interview witnesses. THEY'RE heroes."
From what I saw of the medical personnel at Mt. Sinai Hospital, he's right. They were good, very good, at what they did examining us as patients and processing us into their world. Another part of those medical heroes who deserves mention is the ambulance corps. In my case, the Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) transporting me came all the way from Waldorf. We got chatting on the drive to the hospital and I mentioned Life360 as a great emergency tool to notify family. The younger [far left in the photo] EMT already had it on her cell phone. The older EMT did not, but here is the discussion we had that is worth repeating.
Me: "So what do you do when you are not an EMT?"
Him: "I'm the Inspector General for the Air Force?" [He's the guy with the yellow jacket with EMS on it and the intense stare.] Me: "Oh. You mean you work in the office of the Air Force Inspector General?"
Him: "No. I run the Air Force Office of the Inspector General."
I swallowed hard.
An aside: When I was in the USAF, the Inspector General was higher than a general in that he had more power because he could go into any office, any time, and demand answers that had to be given whether you were a basic airman or a 4-star general. This guy is heavy duty, and he works an ambulance on the side. That's why I love these emergency exercises. Like being in the military, it is one of the few ways you can meet great people who are selfless and sacrifice that you would never get to know otherwise. The coordinator gave everyone a card with a phone number to call if we got lost. I thought that was funny until we were driving all over Baltimore trying to find the hospital. That's a good move because in large-scale exercises of this type people can get lost.
The Inspector General: "This month we are changing the designation of Post Trauma Delayed Stress Disorder to Post Trauma Injury. What is the difference if you are wounded in the body or the brain? Nothing. It's not a disorder. It's an injury and that's what it should be called."
Me: "That's great. Now all the Hollywood pukes who have created such horrible stereotypes of PTSD vets going on killing rampages might have to change their stereotype...as if."
The Inspector General: "It's long overdue and should go a long way to healing and helping service members and vets." Me: "I agree completely. I'm a poet. I know the power of one word to change the world and perceptions. I'm really glad you're doing this." I pray that this change helps all the service members and vets with Post Trauma Injury get better understanding from civilians, but it will be a long time before it does. Until then, I thank God I was able to participate in this medical emergency mock exercise and stretch my brain and skills once more.