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Stepwise Success

Drill For Disaster

Published November 5, 2012 6:11 AM by Scott Warner
The lessons of hurricane Sandy and other disasters are clear:  we can never be too prepared.  The unexpected scope of these events strains any surge capacity, and these events can happen for many reasons.  In your laboratory, disasters can happen on a local scale or larger.  A few examples:  fire, water failure, water contamination, flood, electrical failure, critical recalls, staffing sickness.

My experience has been that most disaster planning hinges on two probable events:  fire and massive trauma.

Fire can occur anywhere, anytime, with any number of people working.  The danger of fire is very real, too.  A simple fire in a trash can may quickly consume nearby paper and travel to upholstery, curtains, and other flammables.  Once a fire gets going with any kind of volume, it’s difficult to stop.

At our hospital, I worked with safety team members to develop a plan that focuses on four things:  the basics of fire extinguisher use, containment strategies, reporting the event to the fire department to save time, and drills.  We conducted weekly drills until responding to an alarm became second nature.

Massive trauma or mass casualty events can also happen on any shift and at any time of the year.  Most often, as with the case of a multiple motor vehicle accident, the worry for the laboratory is the blood supply.  With many hospitals cutting back on inventory levels or using conservation strategies, blood can be harder to come by.  It’s critical for all team members to respond with patient identification, sample collection, testing, and release of blood.

Drills for massive transfusion situations don’t happen often enough in my experience.  But preparation in these cases is every bit as critical as fire training.  Everyone from ambulance to ED to lab has to act in tandem to ensure uninterrupted service.  Physician orders have to be clearly communicated.  On the bench, technologists need the support to work well under extreme pressure.  Live events are not drills, but they often serve that function for many team members.

Why can’t we have weekly drills, I wonder?

Happy voting tomorrow!

NEXT:  Gossips and Grapevines
posted by Scott Warner

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About this Blog


    Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)
    Occupation: Laboratory Manager
    Setting: Critical Access Hospital
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