Picture the scene.

A terrorist group, in an effort to delay or even curtail production of oil throughout the world, targets Halliburton Industries by sabotaging the railway running through Duncan, derailing a train in a residential area, killing four crew members and an unknown number of citizens, and spilling an unknown chemical the train is transporting.

Nearly 1,000 residents are exposed, causing severe skin blisters, coughing and eye irritation. However, it does not appear that exposure to the chemical is fatal.

This type of incident requires the enactment of what are known as Mass Fatality Plans, depending on the capability of the local jurisdictions, involving police, firefighters, EMS and other agencies.

On Thursday, June 19, Grady Memorial Hospital in Chickasha participated in a full scale exercise in conjunction with the city of Duncan and 20 different agencies to evaluate the various participants’ response to such an incident.

More than a dozen “victims” of the chemical spill and train derailment were brought to Grady Memorial Hospital for decontamination and treatment.

A triage area was set up in the parking lot west of the hospital emergency room where the hospital has installed a permanent outdoor decontamination shower.

As victims were brought in, they were separated into three categories. Red-flagged victims were treated immediately, yellow-flagged victims were stable enough to wait a couple of hours for treatment; black-flagged victims were either pronounced dead on arrival or were so severely injured they had no chance for survival.

The “immediate” victims were rushed to decontamination showers by hospital staff wearing protective suits outfitted with breathing apparatus where they were given detailed instructions on how to decontaminate themselves by showering and rinsing themselves thoroughly. Those who were unable to shower because of their injuries were decontaminated by hospital staff.

“The world we live in is pretty scary, it’s a shame we have to prepare for something like this,” said Grady Memorial Hospital Director John Crump. “We do a drill every one or two years with Grady EMS, fire, police, the hospital and other health agencies, but this is a little broader in scope and includes the entire southwest area.”

Crump explained that the hospital installed the outdoor decontamination shower two years ago because in an emergency such as the one in the drill, contaminated persons cannot be allowed to enter the emergency room for fear of contaminating the entire area.

Some of the victims were hospital staff members who volunteered to participate in the drill and employees also volunteered to be trained in the decontamination procedures Crumb said.

Disaster Specialist James DeHaven of Integris Health, who has participated in similar drills in 13 Oklahoma hospitals and 10 out-of-state hospitals, acted as Exercise Evaluator for the drill.

“Hospitals buy the HAZMAT equipment with grants and then they are required to practice using it,” said DeHaven.

According to literature outlining the “Duncan Terrorism/HAZMAT Incident Proposal,” the drill is designed to exercise HAZMAT response, improve coordination with emergency operations centers at the city and state level with the use of multiple agency coordination centers, exercise communication and response plans and identify additional assets, resources and equipment needed to prepare for and respond to a HAZMAT event.

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