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Drill briefly unites area hospitals

Hospital staff who pitched a tent at Sentara CarePlex Hospital in Hampton this weekend weren’t going camping.

The giant tent was part of an emergency preparedness drill that 18 area hospitals, including Sentara Obici Hospital, participated in.

“Part of the premise is the understanding that we’re really all of us in this together,” said Randy Vick, emergency management coordinator at Sentara Obici Hospital. “Our communities don’t stop at the brickwork outside of our building.”

The hospitals simulated on Saturday that a large hurricane caused damage to many hospitals in the area. In the simulation, the hospitals were working independently to care for patients until Sentara CarePlex Hospital had a fire damaging the building on the third day following the hurricane.

The simulated fire required the hospital to call for the setup of a mobile hospital, which meant the other hospitals in the area had to bring connectable tents and other supplies to the CarePlex campus.

The multi-day exercise helps the hospitals prepare for the possibility of many types of emergencies, Vick said.

“We’re in a better position to support each other with a shared, mutual set of problems and a shared, mutual set of assets that can be used to respond to those problems,” Vick said. “When the big one hits, it’s liable not to be an individual hospital problem, anyway; it’s liable to be a regional problem.”

The hospitals involved in this weekend’s exercise included seven Sentara facilities, three Bon Secours hospitals and four Riverside locations, as well as Chesapeake Regional Medical Center, Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, Rappahannock General Hospital and Southampton Memorial Hospital.

The drill is required by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as various other regulatory agencies. The first two days of the drill involved communications exercises such as sending alert messages and sharing information.

“This exercise really is not new,” Vick said. “This is another step forward.”

Other community partners, including emergency management and health officials, participated in the drill.

“The big thing is that we play with each other,” Vick said. “It’s not, ‘Sentara doesn’t deal with Bon Secours or Riverside.’ We’re all playing together.”