Simulated attack puts readiness to the test

Published 5:00 am Friday, June 3, 2005

More than 30 “patients” were seen Thursday morning at King’sDaughters Medical Center following a simulated bioterrorism attackstaged at Southwest Mississippi Community College to test areaagencies’ crisis response.

The drill was sprung on hospitals and emergency responsepersonnel in 13 counties in southwest Mississippi by the stateDepartment of Health as a means to gauge the state department’sreadiness and to improve response, said Liz Sharlot, publicrelations director for the department.

“The hospitals play their roles, but this is more to test ourresponse capability at the Mississippi Department of Health,” shesaid. “The more you do something, the better and more comfortableyou become doing it.”

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KDMC began receiving patients simulating injuries from theincident around mid-morning Thursday, said Jennifer Jackson, ahospital spokeswoman.

“We started receiving patients, and when we received 10 patientswith the same symptoms we called a ‘code black,’ which declares adisaster,” she said.

All of the mock patients complained of high fever and otherailments, Jackson said. High fever proved the common denominatorthat allowed them to call the code black.

“It ended up being anthrax is what we were told later,” shesaid.

Jackson said they lost five patients in the scenario.

“All of that’s predetermined to see how we respond,” she said.”I think they did very well. It all went smoothly.”

Sharlot said the Health Department was also pleased with itsperformance.

“We did very well. We’ll be having another drill again soon,”she said.

Patients became “exposed” to the bioagent while attending a mockgraduation ceremony at the college.

Despite their success in the scenario, Jackson said she missedthe drills that only a few years ago simulated school busaccidents, tornado strikes and other more mundane disasters.

“It’s a sad reflection of the day that we even have to havedrills about things like terrorism, but it’s best to be prepared,”she said.