It’s hard to imagine the unimaginable and often frightening to think about the unthinkable, but that’s what we’ll be doing at Children’s Hospital this week. As we’ve seen with Hurricane Katrina and other large emergencies, disasters do happen. This Wednesday June 17, for the first time anywhere in the country, the U.S. military will assist hospitals throughout southeastern Wisconsin in practicing our coordinated response to a simulated disaster in the community. The exercise is known as the Red Dragon – Homeland Defense Training Exercise and is the largest full-scale exercise in the United States this year. Close to 3,000 troops will be spread across 10 hospitals to rehearse our disaster plans and work together to meet crucial medical needs.
Red Dragon is the military name for this exercise, which has been played out by soldiers at their base in Fort McCoy for a number of years. The Southeastern Wisconsin group of hospitals was chosen to participate because of its close proximity to Fort McCoy.
Our drill here at the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center is a collaborative effort between Children’s Hospital and Froedtert Hospital. Because we are the Level I trauma centers in the region, our drill will be large in scale. Various simulations are planned throughout the day. In the afternoon the military and local first responders will set up a decontamination exercise on the grounds outside Froedtert’s Clinical Cancer center. Approximately 30 simulated patients will come to Children’s Emergency Department, and we’ll practice how we handle this surge of patients.
While the exercise is monstrous in proportion, the good news is that it will seem relatively transparent to the patients and families at Children’s Hospital at the time. That’s really the goal of the exercise. No matter what is happening in the community, providing quality medical care to children must go on. It will be even more important during a catastrophe. We’re planning no interruptions in patient care for the drill and we hope you notice how seamlessly we operate during this training.
Watch for a follow-up from me after the event. I hope to share some of the lessons we learn from this experience.
–Mike Thiel, director of Security Services, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin