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Decontamination drill gives participants vital experience

August 22, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Practicing for a hazardous materials emergency Sunday, about 30 people at Washington County Hospital set up and collapsed a decontamination tent with makeshift showers.

They simulated passing a patient on a spineboard along rollers and spraying her with water.

They retired to a classroom during a break to review how they did.

Michael Lida, a manager and respiratory therapist for Antietam Health Services, and Nilesh Kothari, a clinical engineer at the hospital, put on full-body white contamination suits to make the drill more realistic.

One or two patients can be decontaminated in a room in the hospital, said Joan Fortney, the manager of trauma and emergency medical services. If there were many casualties, though, the hospital would set up a tent outside, which was the purpose of Sunday's training session.

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Keli Dofflemier, a firefighter and emergency medical technician with The Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway, played the victim.

Her connection to the drill was her mother, Theda, who works at the hospital and at Robinwood Surgery Center.

At first, Keli pretended to be a 24-year-old married woman with two children, who was cleaning her garage.

The script said the woman saw clear liquid in an unmarked bottle. Some splashed on her chest, burning her. She tried to blot it with a damp cloth, but made the situation worse by spreading the substance to her hands and eyes and by inhaling the fumes.

As the female victim, Keli was escorted into the tent and washed off.

Shortly after she got out, a real emergency unfolded across Antietam Street.

Drill participants heard a crash and a girl cry out.

Keli, who was barefoot, and others ran down the hill to help the girl, who was lying on the sidewalk, crying, near a bicycle. A taxi had stopped close by.

Some wondered if the taxi hit the girl, but they were told she had ridden into a pole.

Keli was one of the first people to get to the girl. When she looked up, she recognized the Community Rescue Service ambulance pulling in; her sister, Lauren, a paramedic, was inside.

The girl appeared to only have a bump on her head, but was taken to the hospital to be checked.

Back at the decontamination tent, Keli returned from first responder to pretend victim.

Instructors Bill Mastrianni and John Turner of DQE, an Indianapolis company that teaches hazardous materials decontamination, supervised the drill and explained proper procedures.

Mastrianni is an emergency services worker in Charleston, S.C., and Turner is a firefighter in Wichita, Kan.

Turner said the patient needed a new spineboard after she was cleaned off. The transfer needed to be on the ground, to prevent a three-foot fall.

Participants suggested ways to communicate better. And, in a real emergency, someone would have made sure the generator had fuel.

About 60 people from parts of Washington County Health System are on the decontamination team, spokeswoman Maureen Theriault said.

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