North Shore-Long Island Jewish staff drill for disaster

Emergency personal participate in a FEMA Center for Domestic Preparedness drill on how to deal with mass casualties in Lake Success. (April 25, 2012)

A bomb explodes at a high school during a football championship game. Many are injured, and police believe the bomb may have been "dirty," containing a lethal chemical or radioactive material.

That was the scenario that 17 nurses, a pharmacist and others from North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System dealt with Thursday as they ended three days of training in hospital emergency response in a back parking lot of North Shore-LIJ's health facility on Lakeville Road in Lake Success.

The drill was more than just training for participants. It also was the first time that a nongovernment entity was teaching a course usually taught by the Center for Domestic Preparedness, part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


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Clayton Calkins, a training specialist for the center in Anniston, Ala., said the program grew out of conversations with North Shore-LIJ employees who had come to Alabama for training and wanted to be certified to teach the course themselves.

Thursday's drill was the culmination of two years of planning, he said. "We're hoping to use this as a template" for health care systems nationwide, he said.

Robert Picciano, associate director for corporate security at North Shore-LIJ, said the training was critical -- especially in light of the recent bombing at the Boston Marathon and the explosion at a fertilizer factory in West, Texas. Being able to offer the training without having to send people to Alabama, he said, saved time and money.

"It's really a unique opportunity to deliver training to more people," he said.

The drill was a picture of organized chaos. Eight nursing students from Molloy College acted as the walking wounded, and dummies on gurneys were the critically ill.

The goal was to triage and decontaminate victims so they could be treated or admitted to the hospital without infecting hospital staff or patients.

The Molloy students tried to come up with realistic injuries. Kerri Desch, a senior at Molloy, complained she felt air leaking out of her side.

Wearing heavy, yellow plastic suits with their heads covered in decontamination hoods, the trainees moved awkwardly.

For Beraliza Mendoza-Pepanio, an emergency room nurse at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, the challenge was figuring out how to put in an IV while she was wearing heavy gloves. "But here you get to practice to make sure you can do it," she said.

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