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Dartmouth-Hitchcock Trains Responders for Emergency Events

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Trains Responders for Emergency Events

It's hard to anticipate the unexpected but we train for many possibilities if a tragedy happens in our community so we are ready to support our region.

Jim Alexander

"It's hard to anticipate the unexpected but we train for many possibilities if a tragedy happens in our community so we are ready to support our region," says Jim Alexander, Dartmouth-Hitchcock's emergency management coordinator.

"At Dartmouth-Hitchcock we are preparing ourselves with knowledge and training to make sure we can mobilize all of our organization's expertise in a crisis," Alexander says. "We are constantly training and just last month spent a week in a federal facility preparing for these kinds of events."

Twenty Dartmouth-Hitchcock emergency responders completed advanced training at the Center for Domestic Preparedness for catastrophic natural disasters or terrorist events in mid-November. They joined 96 New Hampshire healthcare professionals in a final exercise that prepares emergency workers for an interdisciplinary response to a mass casualty incident.

The recent mass shootings in Paris, Colorado Springs and San Bernadino are the most recent highly publicized events in which healthcare responders have been called upon to save lives in dangerous situations.

"They threw a lot of scenarios at us in several events, forcing us to think on our feet very quickly," said Dan Dahmen, Dartmouth-Hitchcock's director of safety and security. "Simulated events included several terrorist activities, biological events, explosions at a chemical plant, a stadium evacuation, Ebola and other decontamination preparations, and mass casualty traffic and other public transportation accidents."

"It was an excellent experience," said Darlene Saler, associate chief nursing officer.  "It confirmed to me that we have come a long way and are ready to manage whatever issue comes our way.  We had a great opportunity to talk to our colleagues across the state to understand how they function as well."

"It taught me the importance of communication in an event," said Dahmen, who was a public safety public information officer for one event. "We learned to understand the role of other team members' perspectives and how to model behavior to facilitate the job of others."

The New Hampshire group decided to pull some of the state's other hospitals into the action, using new incident management situational awareness software. While the "events" were unfolding during the training event, Alexander pushed the exercise simulations to the other New Hampshire healthcare professionals, including colleagues from the NH Department of Public Health, Catholic Medical Center in Nashua, Elliott Hospital in Manchester, and Lakes Regional Hospital in Laconia.

 "This allowed us to exercise several processes, including patients arriving needing decontamination and being evaluated, triaged, treated and placed in our facility," Alexander said. "The Alabama training will help us plan our own training events. During the past year, we have staged drills on an active shooter at Heater Road, a mass casualty Emergency Department surge following a simulated interstate traffic accident, and our Ebola preparedness drills. We are now better trained and better prepared if an event were to happen in our community."

Dartmouth-Hitchcock trainees included Alexander, Saler, and Dahmen; as well as Janet West, vice president; Jeffrey O'Brien, vice president of operations; William Weyric, director of information services and backup emergency management coordinator; Kevin Williams, ambulatory/clinic operations; Peter Girard, facilities director; Michael Kenney, supply chain manager; Eric Martin, emergency department medical director; Sidney McComiskey, facilities electrician; Deanna Orfinidis, associate chief nursing officer; Kerstin Alderson, house supervisor; Gregory D'Heilly, manager of facilities, Daryl Holthoff, staff nurse in the Emergency Department; Neil Boucher, radiation safety officer; Wes Miller, public health emergency preparation coordinator; Ken Olney, IS applications support; Lisa Carter-White, patient safety patient simulation specialist; and  Jacqueline Chapman-Brunt, LNA.

Ongoing training

D-H prepares for a wide variety of potential incidents such as the recent events in the news and Security Services offers a training program to help individuals and departments better respond to a number of potential emergency event, including an active shooter event in the workplace, public or neighborhood.  The active shooter program includes a short (20-30 minutes) interactive classroom session, a short drill, and a debriefing.

The training covers policy but focuses on what to do and how to protect ourselves and others using the concepts of Run, Hide, Fight if an active shooter were to come into the hospital.

"This is the best training I have ever received" and "it caused me to think differently and have discussions with my family that I never have had before," are some of the comments received after the training.


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