MMSC simulates tornado strike, tweaks disaster plan

Rather than wait for disaster to strike, department heads at Marshalltown Medical & Surgical Center gathered in the hospital’s basement to run through a scenario that tests its preparedness Monday.

“What if Sandy Hook happened here? What if Boston happened here,” said Barb Grabenbauer, MMSC emergency preparedness director. “We have to be prepared because you guys rely on us.”

Since MMSC has not had a live incident in a while, Grabenbauer said, a table top drill was necessary. The drill ran through how each department would react if a tornado hit Hy-Vee on a Saturday evening then took out some of the hospital’s capabilities.

Running through internal calamities, such as a loss of electricity, is just as important as external ones, Grabenbauer said.

Liz Zuercher, MMSC’s vice president of administrative services and one of the department heads involved in the drill, wrote in an email that the drills keep the staff’s skills sharp as employees move in and out of different roles at the hospital.

The scenarios are a great way to evaluate supplies and equipment available for a variety of possible disasters, she wrote.

With the daily influx of patients and with some new people moving into management positions, Grabenbauer said the drill became increasingly important. Last month, the hospital began taking another look at its job action plan, which specifies what every department head should do in the event of various different disasters ranging from tornados, floods, chemical spills and even live shooters.

Grabenbauer said the simulation prompted just a few minor changes in the plan.

Six months ago, the hospital completed a hazardous vulnerability analysis, which determines how likely a certain type of disaster is as well as how prepared the hospital is for it, Grabenbauer said. That analysis drives what scenarios the department heads simulate during a table top drill.

In the next one to two months, Grabenbauer said the hospital will begin another drill involving patient mobilization scenarios. With a new computer system in the emergency room, staff need to understand how to move patients out of danger should the need arise.

“Can we get lab results to the right patient? X-ray results?” she said. “We need to make sure they are getting transported quickly.”

In the fall, Grabenbauer said MMSC will hold another emergency preparedness training. That scenario will likely involve an active shooter.

Because the hospital is a lynchpin of the city, and because of how vulnerable people often are when they are in the hospital, she said the drills are a high priority.

“We want the town to know we are prepared,” Grabenbauer said. “We constantly work on things.”