Emergency vehicles converged on Sampson Regional Medical Center and the Turkey area Sunday morning as real-life scenarios played out for emergency responders and agencies across the county, just a part of regular training should those scenarios materialize into the real deal.
Agencies of the Sampson County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) joined forces to conduct an emergency exercise between 9 a.m. and noon Sunday.
The exercise, which simulates an active shooter scenario, involved Sampson County Emergency Management, Sampson County EMS, the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office, Clinton Police Department, Sampson Regional Medical Center, the Sampson County Health Department, Clinton and Turkey fire departments, as well as numerous volunteer rescue and fire personnel and county and city staff.
The drill included an actor portraying an active shooter with law enforcement officers responding to the scene. The hospital is required to conduct a specific number of drills annually in compliance with regulatory and accrediting bodies and, at least once a year, that drill includes a “community scenario” in which the hospital works with county agencies to test emergency response capabilities.
“The exercise Sunday gave us an opportunity to identify areas of possible vulnerability and improvements for emergency preparedness,” noted Amber Cava, vice president of marketing and community relations at the hospital.
There were no road closures associated with the event, but citizens were advised that there will be numerous emergency vehicles in the Cornwallis and Chestnutt Road area of the Turkey community, and in Clinton on Beaman Street and in the neighborhoods adjacent to the hospital facility, as well as neighborhoods near the Jordan Plaza Shopping Center.
The “active shooter” portion took place in the hospital, then moved to the neighborhoods in the hospital vicinity. The “shooter” however, begins his day with a fire in the scenario, explaining the Turkey area incident.
The LEPC and emergency officials periodically conduct exercises with varying scenarios to measure their disaster readiness, their ability to share resources, and to identify areas where additional training is needed. Approximately 50 people participated in Sunday’s event, designed to test the protocols and procedures of each agency, as well as their understanding and effective use of the incident command structure.
Sampson County Emergency Management director Ronald Bass commended the team who developed the exercise and thanked the public, especially hospital guests and visitors, for potential disruption in their normal Sunday activities.
“This realistic exercise will provide invaluable information that will strengthen our collaborative efforts to respond effectively to save lives and protect property in the event of a similar actual event,” Bass said leading up to the exercise.
Cava agreed. As part of the drill, multiple hospital policies and procedures were tested, including response for an active shooter, lockdown procedures, multiple victims requiring trauma care and preparation for receiving patients with hazardous exposures, she noted.
“While we hope that we never have to implement these plans,” Cava remarked, “it allows hospital staff to test systems in a mock environment, ensuring the policies and procedures are familiar during emergency operations.”
In addition to drills, the hospital annually conducts a hazard vulnerability study to identify circumstances that have the greatest potential risk. That provides an opportunity for evaluation of policies and procedures in preparation for situations that could tax the hospital’s ability to perform routine operations, Cava explained.
“We appreciate the opportunity to be involved with other community agencies in drills like this where we can share resources and work together on improving emergency response,” she said.