Emergency Drills

Emergency Drills

It was around thirty years ago.  I was a college student teaching at an elementary school in Ohio.  I had grown up in the Northeast and had never been in a tornado drill, but there I was, as the sirens sounded.  Fortunately, the young students all knew what to do and the teacher whose class I was helping with quickly led me through the motions of the drill.

This morning, there was a state wide tornado drill across Virginia.  I haven’t started reading the messages about the drill yet.  For some it was a novel experience.  Others have been through more than enough tornado drills and have become cynical, perhaps not paying enough attention to them.  It’s the same across the country.

Recently, we had one of our regular drills at the health center in Middletown.  The safety officers had been walking around, checking things out.  While it is important to make safety drills as realistic as possible, it is also important to minimize disruption to staff and patients, so they carefully timed the event.

First, there was an announcement about a hazardous material spill in Dental.  This was followed by an announcement of a fire.  Everyone was out of the building in less than three and a half minutes, and just about everyone knew where to gather.  Fire drills are common enough so things went smoothly.

Later in the day, there was an announcement about a physical altercation in the conference room used by the AmeriCorps members.  This was then followed by a medical emergency.  The scenario did not seem all that likely; two AmeriCorps members getting into a fight and one getting badly injured.  We have a great close-knit team of AmeriCorps members and I find it hard to imagine any of them getting into a fight.  Yet the staff responded quickly and appropriately and there was a good discussion afterwards about the lessons learned.

Emergency drills can be novel, fun, or sometimes just a drag, but they are always important.  I feel a lot safer working at a place that takes emergency drills seriously and I hope our staff and patients do as well.

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