Milford Hospital disaster drill tests and trains emergency responders

The Milford Hospital Emergency Department and parking lot were an active scene last week as nearly 100 hospital employees, local emergency responders, volunteers and high school students took part in a mock disaster drill. The drill was designed to test the preparedness of hospital personnel as well as local, regional and state agencies should a real crisis occur.

The scenario for the practice event was a motor vehicle accident involving a car and school bus carrying approximately 20 students. As would be typical, the Emergency Department received a CMED radio call alerting the staff to the “accident.”

Shortly after, a second call came in notifying personnel that a white powdery substance was found within the vehicle and at the accident scene. Per hospital protocol, a “Code Black” (Mass Casualty) plan was put into action. Assets were immediately mobilized, fire and police units were on the scene at Milford Hospital, the DECON unit was set up and the “play” began.

The purpose of the event, staged by Alan Lynn, Milford Hospital’s director of safety and emergency preparedness, was to focus on response plans for an actual disaster that would trigger a sudden influx of patients, media, concerned community members and others to the hospital.

The full scale drill lasted about an hour and was the largest of its type conducted at the hospital.

“An event this size takes a lot of planning, coordination and cooperation from many different entities. The Milford Police and Fire Departments have been critical assets in helping us conduct this drill,” said Lynn.

In addition to police and fire, a number of municipal and regional organizations partnered with the hospital to conduct the drill, including the City of Milford Health Department, Joseph A. Foran High School, the Department of Emergency Management & Homeland Security and the State Department of Public Health.

Also, Yale University, the VA Hospital in West Haven, the mayor’s office and the Board of Education had observers on the scene.

Hospitals are required to have disaster response plans in place and conduct periodic drills for improvement and training purposes.

“The goal of this exercise is to enhance working relationships and collaboration between the agencies and organizations involved,” Lynn said. “It’s a mock exercise, but it’s also a very real test of our ability to respond to an actual disaster. We appreciate the cooperation of everyone involved.”

Lynn is a 19-year veteran of Milford Hospital and is also the co-chair of the State Department of Emergency Management & Homeland Security, Region 2, Public Health and Medical services division along with Dr. Andrew Dennis McBride from the city’s health department. His community drills have been used as a model across the state and have covered hospital response for an “active shooter,” “dirty bomb,” “super hurricane” and “snowstorm.” In 2012, he received a commendation from the State of Connecticut, Department of Public Health for Excellence in Performance.