Mock disaster at North Fulton Hospital

Chemical spill trains staff, police

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ROSWELL, Ga. – A chemical spill Nov. 1 led to nearly two-dozen victims needing immediate treatment at North Fulton Hospital.

At least, that was what staff and emergency crews were preparing for. A large-scale drill took place at the hospital and lasted a little less than an hour.

The call came in to Karen Zitomer, the hospital’s marketing coordinator, about 9:15 a.m.

“There has been a chemical spill,” Zitomer said. “There are 20-25 patients who are about 10 minutes out.”

The hospital went into a “code green” – which is their wording for a chemical spill. During this time, the Medical Arts Building – oddly enough where the media is to report – was reported to be contaminated and needed evacuating.

There are about 800 employees in North Fulton Hospital. The entire hospital was to act as if it were a real catastrophe.

Twenty volunteers from the Roswell Citizen’s Police Academy played the victims of the chemical spill that resulted in numerous wounds and exposure to Chlorine gas. They were rushed to the emergency room. There, they were evaluated by hazardous materials crews for gas exposure and, if need be, decontaminated before being admitted into the hospital where other patients were. Real patients in the E.R. were present for the mock drill. Police and fire crews were on hand to test their own emergency procedures.

In light of the recent Hurricane Sandy, emergency drills are worthwhile, not just to get workers used to protocols but also to work out flaws in those same procedures.

“It was pretty darn successful,” said Lisa Holland, spokeswoman with the Roswell Police Department. “It was a good training situation for everybody involved – us, the fire department and the hospital.”

The hospital holds the drills once or twice a year, and they involve the Roswell public safety forces.

By 10:08 a.m., the all-clear signal went out and people were able to go back about their regular duties.

“Thirteen patients came in and were properly decontaminated,” Zitomer said finally. “The staff are fine, and there are no injuries.”

All in all, then, it was a success.