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CAMC Hospitals to hold emergency preparedness drills

By Candace Nelson

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Charleston Area Medical Center's hospitals are preparing for an active shooter situation, widespread infections and trauma cases simultaneously during an emergency response exercise Thursday.

Officials hope the drill will prepare staff for emergencies that could arise when thousands of people flood into the area for the Boy Scouts of America Jamboree, which will be held July 15 to 24 in Fayette and Raleigh counties.

CAMC participates in a regional emergency response exercise each year as part of a grant program with the West Virginia Hospital Association. The group tries to mimic a real-life event applicable to the area, said Lillian Morris, the corporate director for safety at CAMC, during the Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday morning.

More than 40,000 Scouts, volunteers and staff are anticipated to attend the National Scout Jamboree, which will be held at The Summit: Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve for the first time. Morris expects more than 100,000 visitors to the area.

"That means something for hospitals, as well," she said. "We anticipate that we will have patients that come to us for injuries on the campsite or a variety of problems that could occur with the large number of folks."

The scouts will have on-site medical services to take care of minor injuries. State emergency medical services will handle transportation. Morris said at the last Jamboree, the Boy Scouts of America reported 704 total patients who were transported to area hospitals. Of those, 337 patients were admitted to a facility. Of the 337 inpatients, 23 were critical and 38 were serious.

"We try to get a handle on what we might be looking at for the number of patients that could impact the hospitals in our area. That's a significant impact on area hospitals for an increase in the number of admissions," Morris said. "We don't have specific info on the diagnosis on why people were admitted, but we certainly know trauma, and cardiac cases would be on that list."

The three CAMC branches in Charleston will begin the exercise approximately at 8:30 a.m. and will finish around noon.

CAMC Women and Children's Hospital will execute a drill plan that will simulate the response to a large amount of people coming in with infectious diseases. This addresses concerns that some Fayette County-area hospitals are having about snakebites in the area.

General Hospital will have an active shooter exercise at the hospital, which will be held in a maintenance department away from patient care areas. Approximately 20 volunteers will play victims to help test the communication and planning of the facility.

"General is having a very unique exercise that will probably get a good bit of notice because it's going to be visible to our local community," Morris said. "There will be a lot of police presence -- lots of police cars. Traffic will be slowing down on that block."

The Kanawha County Sheriff's Office and the Charleston Police Department are developing the exercise and will portray the "bad guys," Morris said. The police will not be using real guns; instead, they will use blue, plastic guns. A "Code Silver" policy would be activated in this type of emergency.

"All of the staff that will be participating in that exercise have been informed about the drill or given the opportunity to not participate if that's something that will be stressful to them. And the police will meet with them again tomorrow morning to again go through what we're going to be doing," Morris said.

Because the emergency department at CAMC General would be closed if there were an active shooter, CAMC Memorial will handle the trauma event. They will focus on handling an increased number of trauma victims and will treat approximately 25 simulated injuries made with moulage.

"We've taken a different approach this year. We have a very ambitious drill plan. Usually, we do one scenario and all of our hospitals do the same thing," Morris said. "The last drill, we looked at what would happen to the hospitals if we had a major flood, for example. This year, each of the hospitals will do something different."

To make the event realistic, the hospital has enlisted the help of the Children's Theatre of Charleston to do the moulage makeup for trauma victims and snakebites. The Garnet Career Center, Children's Theatre, home-schooled children and other volunteers will help with the scenarios.

"All three hospitals will be involved, and there will be a lot of activity. The challenge we always have with these situations is how do we take care of the real patients; that's something we're aware of and work around," said David Ramsey, CAMC's president and CEO. "Sometimes these drills don't come off as realistic as you want them to because you still have to take care of the patients who come in the door, as well. But it certainly gives us a chance to think through what we did right. Not just for us, but the entire community."

All hospitals in the association's region 3 and 4 who are in the grant program are participating in the specialized drills. Hospitals in Putnam County through Greenbrier County will host drills that test their response to situations they are concerned with.

"It really makes a huge difference in hospitals working together with communities to respond to any kind of problems. That's really a benefit of doing these kinds of exercises," Morris said.

Also during Wednesday's meeting: The Board is considering going paperless with its meeting materials. A recommendation should be made by the end of summer.

Saturday's gala, to benefit programs at CAMC's Women and Children's Hospital, has already raised $275,000. Auction items include an autographed guitar, gold packages and diamond tennis bracelets.

Contact writer Candace Nelson at or 304-348-5148. Follow her at


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