Mock explosions in MCI drill prepare Calif. respondersAimed at helping local emergency medical services and hospitals prepare for real disasters, the drill highlighted strengths and shortfalls facilities may need to address
By Sarah Rohrs
The Vallejo Times Herald
SOLANO COUNTY, Calif. — In a massive explosion Thursday on Interstate 80 near Cordelia, Touro University student Will Princewill suffered extensive burns and injuries then nearly died in Vallejo's Kaiser Permanente Medical Center emergency room.
Well, not exactly.
The explosion and Princewill's injuries and brush with death were all staged as part of a statewide medical surge exercise. However, the responses of doctors, nurses, ambulances, fire departments and others were all quite real.
Aimed at helping local emergency medical services and hospitals prepare for real disasters, the drill highlighted strengths and shortfalls facilities may need to address, county and hospital officials said.
The mock scenario included two improvised explosions near the I-80 truck scales. There were hundreds of casualties and victims were first taken to nearby Solano Community College where they were stabilized before being transported to five local hospitals.
At Kaiser Vallejo, Dr. Scott Haynes, Dr. Lawrence Nathan and others evaluated patients, and consulted and directed nurses on treatment.
"As far as we're concerned this is a real emergency," said Kaiser spokesman Mel Orpilla.
Meanwhile, Kaiser's Incident Command Center housed dozens more hospital staff who fielded phone calls, kept track of gurneys, hospital beds, and equipment and monitored patients who needed to go to nearby trauma centers.
Doctors and nurses treated Princewill's burns and stabilized him for surgery. But as he waited on a gurney for an opening, he lost consciousness and nearly passed away, he said.
Next to Princewill was fellow Touro student Peter Muchendo who had an open chest wound and also waited for an opening in surgery.
Numerous volunteer victims came from Touro University, such as Wesley Lashbrook who laid on a gurney awaiting orthopedic surgery after being brought in with his fellow student Lan Doan, playing his wife.
She was treated for burns while he required a splint on his fractured leg, plus a CT scan.
At Sutter Solano, many of the volunteers had responded to a call for help issued on KUIC radio station, hospital spokesman Sy Neilson said.
As part of the drill, hospital staff also attended to grieving families, and responded to victims with special needs, such as two hearing impaired women who used sign language and wrote things down to communicate with a nurse.
Evaluation of Thursday's drill will take place over the next few weeks, Solano County Public Health Education Manager Robin Cox said.
Travis Air Force Base personnel were on hand at local hospitals to observe and take note of staff responses. Nearly three hours into the drill, Master Sgt. Jeff Schattilly said everything was going "pretty good" at Kaiser Vallejo.
"Everything is rolling along nicely," he said.
At Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo, the drill also went well, pointing out both strengths as well as opportunities for improvement, particularly in communication, Neilson said.