Hospitals conduct emergency drills in the wake of Boston bombing, Oklahoma tornado

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing last month and this week's tornado in Oklahoma, hospitals across the country are preparing for the worst kinds of disaster.

Several Portland, Ore., hospitals are running emergency training drills to simulate what would happen if they suddenly had an influx of trauma patients, Katu News reported.

This week doctors at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center got a call about an emergency situation. Despite the lack of details and the fact that they don't typically handle trauma patients, the emergency medical team had to act fast, setting up a tent for more room to work. Thanks to good makeup on high school students who volunteered to serve as patients, the injuries looked real, according to Katu News. Later in the week Providence Portland Medical Center also will go through an emergency drill.

"Everyone's been handling it well. I just noticed the wheelchairs don't fit into the tents so that's a problem," nurse Lauren Carpenter, who participated in the drill at St. Vincent, told Katu News. "We just brought in the stretchers and loaded the patients at the door."

Oregon hospitals aren't the only ones preparing for disasters. In Michigan, Spectrum Health officials told Wood-TV they have emergency plans, including contingencies for what to do if hospitals are damaged. Although the Oklahoma tornado underscores the need for such plans, Spectrum conducts yearly emergency drills. In fact, Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital conducted a drill in early May.

After Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast in late August 2005 followed closely by Hurricane Rita, the Joint Commission published a report of the healthcare community's response to the floods and best practices. Because so many local healthcare facilities also were devastated by the floods, they had to set up temporary facilities or "surge" hospitals. The Joint Commission says all healthcare organizations need to know how to respond in the event a natural or man-made disaster cripples their facilities.

To learn more:
- read the Katu News article about Oregon hospitals
- see the piece on Michigan hospitals
- check out the Joint Commission report