Training exercise ends as tornado hits.
On May 22, emergency responders from nine states had wrapped up a training exercise based on a seismic event on the New Madrid fault line. The exercise included practice installation of a mobile medical field hospital at the Branson, Mo., airport.
Prior to the exercise, the Taney (Missouri) County Ambulance District had set up parts of the unit, but never the entire complex, says Major Dana Aumiller, the district’s special operations manager.
“When the exercise was over, we hadn’t started taking any tents down yet and the tornado hit Joplin,” he says.
The EF-5 tornado, with 200 mph winds, killed more than 150 people in Joplin, injured more than 1,000 and destroyed about 7,000 homes. One of the city’s two hospitals, seven-story St. John’s Regional Medical Center, was leveled.
Logistics personnel of the Missouri Disaster Medical Team (MO DMT), along with 24 members of a National Guard engineering unit, took down the unit in Branson and reinstalled the unit in Joplin, about 100 miles away.
“We tore those tents down and packaged them in four hours, and then transported the hospital tents to Joplin and set them back up in 13 hours,” Aumiller says. “The last time we set it up, with fewer people, it took almost four days. It shows you the difference in what manpower can do.”
At its 60-bed maximum, the modular complex manufactured by BLU-MED Response Systems, Kirkland, Wash., includes 11 tents totaling about 9,600 square feet. Purchased with federal and state grants, the unit is maintained by the Taney County Ambulance District when its not deployed, and the MO DMT receives the unit at disaster sites and makes it operational.
“The concept is that we can come into any small community in the state of Missouri whose hospital is out of service due to a natural disaster and put their hospital back in service,” Aumiller says. “This keeps the staff working, supports the local economy and keeps the patients local. The Joplin mission is exactly what this hospital is supposed to do.”