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Arizona hospital holds drill to practice response to mass casualty events

PHOENIX — Several officers arrived at Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center in the back of marked police vans and trucks. About a dozen people drove up behind ambulances.

All of them were pretending to have gunshot wounds and other injuries. It was part of a drill to test the hospital’s ability to respond to mass casualty events.

Todd Larson, associate vice president of workplace and public safety for HonorHealth, said they wanted to see how the hospital staff performed in a number of areas.

“Do we have enough of the medical supplies that we need?” he wondered. “Is our pharmacy ready to respond with the proper amount of medication for a mass casualty?”

He said they were also checking for gaps in logistics and ways hospital staff can be more efficient in treating a patient.

The drill began with police officers and first responders from multiple agencies arriving at the scene of a mass shooting. They were the first to provide emergency medical care.

The patients were then taken to five HonorHealth hospital across the Valley on ambulances. Some were also taken on personal vehicles, which Larson said has become more common during real-life mass causality events.

The drill, which had been in the planning for several months, comes after the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that left at least 29 people dead.

Larson said the recent mass shootings “highlight the fact that this could happen in any community at any time.”

“Our role as a hospital network system is to take care of our community,” he said. “There’s no better way to do that than to work with our community partners, train and plan.”

HonorHealth hospitals have done similar drills before but never to this extent. About 250 volunteers participated in the drill, including first responders from various fire and police departments.

What was also different about this drill was that medical staff at the hospitals were not given prior notice and were caught by surprise.

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