EAMC drills for potential disaster

OPELIKA, AL (WTVM) - A life-like disaster drill was conducted Thursday at the East Alabama Medical Center. The difference in this drill from prior exercises is that team members were given no notice, in order to always be prepared for the unexpected.

The Lee County Emergency Management Agency and the Southern Union State Community College teamed up to conduct the "no notice" disaster drill with the assistance of the Opelika Fire Department.

"Disaster drills have helped train us, but this drill will be more impactful I think. People will learn a lot more about themselves because they're not overly prepared for what's ahead," explains John Atkinson, Public Relations Manager for EAMC.

People were recruited as actors to replicate injuries sustained from tornados touching down in Opelika.

To complicate the exercise, the tornado also hit the hospital itself.

"Where would you put 40 additional patients when you already have 260? What can you do? That where Southern Union comes into the picture as well because they're kind of a backup facility because of their great program," says Atkinson.

The disaster drill included establishing emergency command centers, medical triage units and practicing overall hospital logistics when a flood of new patients arrive.

The agencies practice twice a year to provide the best disaster response for Lee County.

"We're notified by an internal page, we're notified by our cell phones, so of course once we get the notification, we move. We do not question if it's a disaster drill or if it's the actual real thing, because we should be prepared and always are, all the time," explains EAMC's Revenue Cycle Director, Leanne Moran.

Based on Alabama's severe weather history, it is not a matter of if a disaster like this will happen, it's when.

The agencies will meet to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the disaster drill to determine where improvements can be made.

Copyright 2013 WTVM. All rights reserved.