Smoke, Casualties, Action!
'Exercise Thunderstruck’ commenced with a bang at Nelson Hospital when operating theatres began to flood with fake smoke. The July exercise tested the hospital’s emergency response and also the NZ Fire Service’s familiarity with hospital buildings. Emergency Pete Kara says that no matter how prepared an organisation is there is nothing better than putting paper checklists and procedures to the test.
“In this case, the test involved theatre evacuations, the stabilisation of a ‘patient’ (a mannequin) half-way through surgery and the resuscitation of, and treatment for, several casualties found in various states of need.”
Theatre Manager Claudia Teunissen helped to design the exercise and was the theatre incident controller on the day. She says the exercise was invaluable to test new evacuation checklists.
“Checklists are vital when you are struggling to see through the smoke and your heart is racing. They only take seconds to work through, reduce uncertainty and put the whole team on the same page before everyone jumps to action,” Claudia says.
Pete says the exercise tested changes made to emergency response procedures resulting from from the first 2015 exercise. The 2015 changes included making the roles of fire wardens and theatre incident managers clearer, drafting a patient evacuation checklist and making radio communications available in theatres.
“There was major improvement compared to last year, even though we threw a few spanners in the works to put an extra squeeze on,” Pete says.
“The whole of the DHB is involved, not just theatre staff and we really benefit from the participation of the fire service.
“Having fire crew hauling 100kg hoses through theatres in full breathing apparatus made it even real.”
Pete says that the exercise was held on a day where there were no scheduled operations and that two theatres and staff were on stand-by for real emergencies.
Photography by Janet Little, Nelson Hospital Theatre Technician.