Fort Hood shooting, Boston bombing anniversary spark emergency prep actions

In the aftermath of incidents like this week's Ft. Hood shooting and last year's Boston Marathon bombing, hospitals around the country have stepped up preparation for mass casualty and emergency scenarios.

Emergency leaders from Boston traveled the country this year to share what worked and what didn't on the day of the bombing--proof that years of emergency preparedness drills and planning paid off. "We're trying to share both the successes and the challenges. It's our responsibility," Paul Biddinger, M.D., chief of emergency preparedness at Massachusetts General Hospital, told the Boston Herald.

One issue that came to light after the bombing was the lack of a centralized database for tracking patients in a disaster. Hospital and emergency leaders are now pushing for such a database statewide. "It's very hard to know who you can share information with and who you can't. We've got to get a system from the state. It has to be a statewide process for tracking patients that everybody reports into," Meg Femino, emergency management director at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, told the newspaper.

Boston hospitals have also changed their ambulance-stocking system, made tourniquets more accessible to workers, improved communication between ER staff and the operating room and changed procedures for tagging emergency room patients so they are easier to identify, according to the Herald.

Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C., in conjunction with the Naval Hospital, held an active shooter scenario drill this week in which three Marines posing as gunmen injured 18 role-playing civilians, JDNews.com reported. It took the Naval Hospital eight minutes to secure all departments after the base locked down at 8:48 a.m. Nine minutes after lockdown, the first patients arrived at the hospital, where they were treated in a mass casualty collection point outside the emergency room, then transported to necessary departments within the hospital, according to the article.

The facility could improve communication and availability of supplies, said Martin Summerville, division officer for the ER and a retired Navy nurse. "This is something that we practice routinely to make sure our capabilities are current and so we can be prepared to take care of patients if this were ever to happen for real," he said.  

It's reassuring for the public to know hospitals are prepared to handle even the worst and most catastrophic events. Augusta Health in Fisherville, Va., works with other agencies and hospitals to practice for various crisis situations beyond just medical training, such as disaster response coordination, according to WHSV.com.

To learn more:
- read the JDNews.com piece
- here's the WHSV article
- check out the Boston Herald article

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