As the old saying goes: you can’t just hope for the best, you must also prepare for the worst. That’s what several Draper entities came together to do the first week of November for the Vigilant Guard Drill, a statewide exercise.
The Utah National Guard, Lone Peak Hospital, the Skaggs Catholic campus, the Unified Fire Authority and the Draper Police Department were among those who participated locally. The drill assumes that a 6.0 or higher magnitude earthquake has hit the Wasatch Front and that aftershocks shook the ground as well.
Dr. Julie Fox and Karen Barnard of Lone Peak Hospital help an “injured” patient received via helicopter for an earthquake drill. Photo courtesy of Travis Smith / Lone Peak Hospital
The first portion of the drill involved Lone Peak Hospital in Draper and the National Guard. On Nov. 3, the hospital practiced receiving an influx of patients that had been injured as a result of an earthquake, and in an unusual twist, those patients came via helicopter so that the hospital could learn how to manage a large number of patients in a somewhat chaotic scenario.
“It doesn’t happen very frequently that we have a drill this large in scale. Our main goal is to be prepared in terms of a disaster. I think it’s a good opportunity on how we would respond in a real scenario,” said Hani Makar, Lone Peak Hospital preparedness coordinator.
Previously selected Juan Diego Catholic High School students feign injury and walk or help others to the designated triage area set up for an earthquake drill on the Skaggs Catholic campus.
Two days later, there was high drama at Juan Diego Catholic High School as its portion of the drill began, but all a rehearsal and all for the sake of preparedness as well. The school sits on the Skaggs Catholic campus. That campus has memorandums of understanding with several local agencies including Lone Peak Hospital, the Red Cross and Draper City and it was selected as an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for Draper City in the event of a real emergency. Draper’s City Hall is also an EOC.
Molly Dumas serves as public information officer for the Skaggs Catholic Center. She explained that it’s highly likely, in the event of an earthquake, that the Skaggs campus would serve as an EOC because the campus is located in a lower seismic activity area and the buildings are newer and built to code.
“We’re not on a fault line, we’re not in a high shaking area, so in all likelihood, our building might be one of the few still standing,” Dumas said.
A Utah National Guard helicopter landed at Lone Peak Hospital for the Vigilant Guard Drill. Photo courtesy of Travis Smith / Lone Peak Hospital
She also pointed out that liquefaction-potential maps for the area indicate the campus is on more solid ground with regard to it not being too near bodies of water that might cause quicksand-like conditions in other geographic areas of the valley. Dumas said the campus sits on 56 acres with 400,000 square feet of buildings that could potentially hold tens of thousands of people. She said they could land helicopters and have tent cities on the property if needed.
“We could accommodate thousands with the help of our partners,” Dumas said. She went on to say that their neighbor, Lone Peak Hospital, also sits in a more solid geographic location compared to other hospitals in the valley, and thus has the potential of being one of the only hospitals left standing and able to care for patients in an emergency.
Two scenarios played out that day at the Skaggs campus. Scenario one was an earthquake drill where the entire campus of approximately 2,250 people including the childcare, elementary, middle and high schools began by practicing taking cover under their desks and then evacuating their buildings. Once outside, teachers had to account for the children or students in their care. Each classroom on the campus is equipped with an emergency backpack containing directions for teachers and some basic equipment needed in an emergency.
High school students with an interest in medical fields as well as some drama students had been previously selected to feign injuries, but teachers had not been told in advance which students would pretend injury. The hospital had assigned the students ailments such as hysteria and hallucination as well as broken bones, lacerations and chemical burns.
Teachers had to identify which of the students in their care needed medical treatment of some sort. Those students, feigning their designated injuries, were carried or escorted to a triage area of campus where they were assessed by Skaggs Campus Health Services staff. Each “injured” student was given a tag indicating the severity of their injury, with red meaning immediate care was needed. Students with red tags were given priority for being loaded on a bus bound for Lone Peak Hospital where they would be unloaded first for urgent care.
Other students were tagged as yellow for “serious but not life threatening” and green for “minor injury.” They also rode on the bus bound for the hospital. The triage tags used that day by Skaggs staff included a black tag for “morgue,” though no black tags were issued that day.
“It helps to practice that and get to know each other in a scenario where you can practice working together first before the real scenario happens,” Dumas said of the partnership with Lone Peak Hospital.
The second scenario assumed that the hospital had either experienced damage to its building, rendering some or all areas unsafe, or that the hospital had been overwhelmed by the number of patients and thus needed to set up a Medevac unit in Juan Diego Catholic High School’s auxiliary gym. Dumas said the idea for that part of the drill came from Lone Peak Hospital.
Carolyn Kunz is an RN at Lone Peak Hospital, and she was among the 18 hospital staff who had helped set up and practice “emergency and operating room” areas in the gym and even an OB area designed for the delivery and care of a baby and its mother, a scenario she feels could be quite likely in an emergency.
Continuing the drill, the 30 “injured” students returned to the high school from the hospital via ambulance with National Guard staff escorting them to the Medevac unit that had been established by Lone Peak in the school’s auxiliary gym.
Unified Fire Authority helped with transporting the “injured” by ambulance while Draper Police assisted by controlling traffic.
“Their function is to provide security. You need someone who can help with order and…traffic control. They’re a great partner with us as well,” Dumas said.
The day ended with each entity de-briefing within its organization on to how things went and how they could be improved. That would be followed by leaders from the school and the hospital comparing notes in the same way.
“The hospital will have a debriefing period to gauge what worked well and what can be improved upon so that we can continually be in a state of preparation for a real event,” Makar said.
The representatives from all participating entities indicated that the drill was very valuable to their teams.
“It’s one thing to have a big plan. It’s another thing to test to see if that works, and that’s what we’re doing,” Dumas said.
“We created this scenario to practice this, to find where our holes are,” she said.