Drill tests emergency readiness at area hospitals

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- An accident on I-40 is bad enough, but if it's a semi full of chemicals, it's much worse. That was the scenario for a readiness test of area medical facilities that took place today.

"The initial responders call and give the best estimates they can on what's happened with an emphasis on safety of the people doing the rescue," said New Hanover Regional Medical Center VP of Medical Affairs Dr. Sam Spicer, who served as incident commander today. "Once they realized there were chemicals, they had the hazmat teams involved, and then they gradually build up more resources as it came along the line, including county and state resources."

NHRMC, along with Cape Fear Hospital and Pender Memorial, all participated in the Burning Cloud emergency exercise.

"Our actual incident was called a little after 7 this morning," NHRMC's Martha Harlan said of the practice scenario. "We learned that a tanker had collided with a truck around I-40 area, and that there was a chemical spill."

This was a test of the hospital's readiness to respond and treat a large number of victims quickly. Dr. Spicer was pleased with the outcome.

"These drills always show some weaknesses and ways to improve," he said. "Our staff have all been there and responded very enthusiastically and responded well. They understand it's a drill, but everybody understands it could be real in this situation."

This morning there were 28 mock patients at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, three at Cape Fear Hospital and eight at Pender Memorial Hospital.

The hospitals also plan to get feedback from media that covered the event. The goal is to find out what the hospital did well and what needs to be improved in case something like this really happens.

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