On Memorial Day, Tri-County Health Care staff responded to a fire at a nearby irrigation facility and severe weather. Staff was warned of the fire and the possibility of chemical gas approaching the hospital. Additionally, a storm producing high winds and the possibility of tornados had the potential to affect the City of Wadena. Staff members mitigate situations like this in a specific way, and Tri-County staff regularly participate in scenarios like this one.
Taking appropriate action
EMS staff departed to assist with the nearby fire. Initially, they began fire rehab, a procedure where EMS supports firefighters by providing first aid, hydration, and a cool place to recover. The storm hit, which prompted EMS staff to take cover. At the Wadena Hospital, staff initiated incident command operations. Members of the administration, EMS, and medical staff evacuated patients to safe areas within the facility. Tri-County completed this task without issue.
Due to the threat of chemical gas entering the facility, maintenance and the engineer on call quickly disabled the ventilation system to stop the potential spread of gas. This process was completed without incident, and all observations indicate that chemical-laced gas did not enter the facility.
The scope of a crisis
“You couldn’t write a scenario like this,” remarked Emergency Management Coordinator Tom Krueger. Krueger is responsible for the mobilization of incident command at Tri-County Health Care. He’s also responsible for training staff to handle scenarios like severe weather and structure fires. Leading up to the storm, Krueger provided detailed information on its movement. His team was instrumental in facilitating evacuation during the crisis.
“Everyone did a fantastic job and everything went according to plan even with the mounting problems in the region” – Thomas Krueger.
After the storm passed, staff received an all-clear message. Evacuation orders lifted, and patients returned to their rooms. Once the threat of gas passed, the ventilation system reactivated, and normal operations resumed. Staff mitigate all-hazards scenarios based on many factors, many of which were present in this crisis. Please visit TCHC.org and our social media accounts for regular updates.
On May 12, our first taste of spring was interrupted by a barrage of severe weather. Major news sources reported a string of storms across the western part of Minnesota, generating high winds and even tornados. The City of Wadena is no stranger to storms of this nature after being hit by a tornado in 2010. This experience leaves many with looming anxiety whenever the thunderheads roll in. In the end, we have no mystical control over the weather. However, we do control how we recover from it. The people of the Wadena area don’t live in fear of nature. We accept it and band together to overcome it. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) week is here, and what better way to celebrate than by taking a look at how EMS and severe weather can change your life in an instant.
EMS staff are responsible for the safety of patients and staff within Tri-County Health Care. This responsibility requires constant vigilance. In addition to situational awareness, they use a series of alert systems to get immediate notifications of incoming severe weather. Emergency Management Coordinator Tom Krueger always has his eyes on the sky and his radio handy. He is always in communication with the Central Minnesota Hospital Preparedness Coalition, a relationship that allows for a safer, better healthcare system.
The storm eventually passed, and the sun rose once again. The pleasant spring weather illuminated avenues of downed trees and mounds of insulation tossing in the wind. The storm passed, but it left its mark. Some buildings appeared to have their roofs cleaved off, leaving a disfigured maw of shingles and lumber. Hours earlier, the sky turned a pungent grey, followed by wind. EMS jumped into action to minimize hazards. They initiated storm safety procedures which involved EMS staff systematically informing patients and staff of the incoming storm. Then, the crew assisted in moving patients to the appropriate pre-designated shelter zones.
More than a few buildings received roof damage that stormy night. Krueger was asked what would happen if the storm damaged the roof of the hospital or clinic. What would we do?
“Staff and patients will hopefully be in a “Shelter-In-Place” mode and will have been evacuated to either the tunnel or Post-Anesthesia Recovery unit (safe interior space). In the event of a “direct strike”, there is a plan for setting up an Alternate Care Site in the community to continue to care for our patients in the short-term. We would also rely on mutual aid with our CMHPC coalition partner facilities to assist in a disaster of this type for both hospital and EMS services.” – Thomas Krueger, Emergency Management Coordinator
EMS tips for a safe clean up
Wear the appropriate clothes. Avoid scrapes and bruises by wearing long-sleeved garments and jeans. Boots, gloves, and a hat are also highly recommended.
Be safe with power tools. Some people tend to ignore basic safety in the aftermath of a disaster. Don’t be one of those people. Use proper eye protection if you plan on clearing trees.
Storms that generate high winds can make a huge mess. They can even damage power lines and dislodge nails. Situational awareness is critical. Tread carefully and if you see a downed power line, do not approach it; instead, notify the local power authority.
Stay hydrated! You need water to function, so keep a water bottle nearby.
EMS and severe weather are here to stay, so remember to watch for bad storms this summer and beyond. Also, take some time to thank the men and women of EMS for all they do in our communities. Please visit TCHC.org and follow Tri-County Health Care on social media for more information.