Effingham Health System staged an emergency preparedness drill May 15, simulating the evacuation of their skilled nursing facility for an approaching Category 3 hurricane. The drill was monitored by public safety officials and hospital staff in an effort to better coordinate the required preparations and activities surrounding a real evacuation situation.
Students from the Effingham Career Academy assisted with the drill by standing in for nursing home residents, allowing staff to practice transport skills using wheelchairs and gurneys, depending on the resident’s mobility.
The drill was conducted in connection with the annual preparedness effort known as Hurrex 2012, sponsored by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. Observers of the drill included Darrell O’Neal, the environmental health county manager for the Effingham County Health Department, and Laurent Guillou, an emergency preparedness specialist from the Division of Public Health’s Coastal Division. Both men complimented the organizers and stressed the importance of regular drills simulating emergency situations.
"We can never be too prepared, and these drills can help us identify any shortcomings long before a real emergency arises," Guillou said. "With hurricane season just around the corner, this evacuation drill is an important part of the hospital’s preparedness plan. We especially like to see the kind of community effort displayed by the participation of these students."
Jean Blackburn, an employee in Effingham Health System’s Human Resources Department, explained the particulars of the evacuation plan to some of the newcomers.
"We would evacuate the nursing home residents to a receiving facility in Augusta in the case of an impending hurricane," she said. "They would be accompanied by nurses, as well as the nursing home administrator. Those requiring oxygen would also be accompanied by a respiratory therapist. We also have to see that there is an adequate supply of food and medicine for each resident, so an evacuation is a very big undertaking."
The drill concluded with a roundtable discussion that included feedback from participants and observers.