Emory Report
November 10, 2008
Volume 61, Number 11



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November 10
, 2008
Disaster drill set for Nov. 11

By kim urquhart

With the help of student and professional actors, an imagined disaster scenario will offer a very real opportunity to practice and test Emory’s emergency response.

The Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Emergency Response (CEPAR) is coordinating the full-scale disaster exercise on Tuesday, Nov. 11.

On Nov. 11, the Emory Police Department Dispatch Center will receive an alarm alerting them to the presence of smoke or fire in the Alabama Residence Hall. Responders will be asked to visualize smoke billowing out of open windows and doors.

Student residents, guests and residence hall staff have either evacuated or are in the process of leaving the building. Several are finding it difficult to breathe, and a few have twisted their ankles and sustained other minor injuries while fleeing the smoke and fire.

Responding police, fire and EMS representatives will establish a safety perimeter, assure the building is evacuated, establish a triage and treatment area and assure the remaining injured building occupants are identified and are brought to Emory University Hospital’s emergency department for treatment.

Over the next hour up to 50 additional people will seek medical attention for minor ailments and breathing problems. Emergency department staff will respond to the surge of patients according to established processes and procedures.

In the meantime, Campus Life staff will implement their procedures to account for all students residing in the hall. Hospital staff will be fielding requests for information from the media and others.

Incident leadership at Emory University Hospital will interface and collaborate with the overall University’s incident leadership to address the pertinent issues. The magnitude of the situation will require notification of the President’s Cabinet and the crisis management fusion group, an interdisciplinary committee who will meet through conference call to work through the crisis.

“While the University and Emory Healthcare have various kinds of plans for how to handle or deal with such a crisis, this is an opportunity to assure that what is envisioned is able to be operationalized,” says Robert Nadolski, CEPAR’s senior administrator.

The drill employs as patients actors from a local production company, along with student volunteers, to simulate a realistic scenario.

“You can come up with all the plans in the world, but until you really test it out in this type of environment with full-scale exercises, you can’t ever really be sure what’s going to happen,” says Jim Zerylnick, CEPAR’s training and operations manager.

“In general Emory is incredibly fortunate to have so many good people and resources and departments that do a wonderful job every day, on a normal basis,” says Zerylnick, ranging from the full-service Emory Police Department to the student-run Emory EMS. The key during a crisis, he says, is coordinating them to function effectively.

The Nov. 11 event is the first of two hands-on full-scale drills CEPAR will conduct through a federal grant. The initial drill will help establish a preparedness baseline and identify opportunities for improvement. Throughout the 18-month grant period, CEPAR will use mini-drills and small-scale tabletop exercises to educate and familiarize University leadership with aspects of Emory’s emergency management plan.