ArkLaTex hospitals prepare for mass casualty incident

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Using the latest lifesaving technology, LSU Health is very equipped to handle emergency situations. But, in the event of a mass casualty incident would hospital staff be ready to stage and treat large numbers of injured people?

"Each of the hospitals in region 7 has a plan," said Knox Andress, Region 7 Hospital Preparedness Coordinator.

Knox Andress says the plan starts with communication. Each of the hospitals in region 7 have a direct telephone line to the fire department, called Biotell. This allows the hospitals to get ready, in advance, to respond to whatever situation is on the way.

"We could receive communication from a pre-hospital setting, straight here to this ER," said Andress.

If dozens or even hundreds need medical attention all at once no one hospital is going to be able to meet the demand. In Northwest Louisiana there is a plan for this type of situation. Different hospitals specialize in different areas, be it burn victims, gunshot wounds, or even hazmat. In a mass casualty incident all hospitals would work together.

"In our coordinated response we'd be able to send patients and casualties to the appropriate facilities. That includes Christus Schumpert, and the Willis Knighton facilities, the VA and others," said Andress.

This effort is a part of the Incident Command System, or ICS, found in hospital regions all over the country. Andress says the realization for such a coordinated lifesaving effort did not come until after the terrorist attacks on September, 11.

"We tried to operate individually and respond individually. What 9-11 and subsequent events have shown us is that it takes a region of resources to maximize its capability," said Andress.

Each year the hospitals in region 7 get together to rehearse their response to a mass casualty event in order to train and tweak the coordinated effort. Andress says the next rehearsal will be in October.

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