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SMH Helicopter Crash Drill

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SARASOTA, Fla. (June 10, 2015) – Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Sarasota County emergency management and first responders (Fire/EMS/Law Enforcement) participated in a Mass Casualty drill involving a simulated helicopter crash on the landing pad of the hospital’s Critical Care Tower Wednesday morning.

In the drill, an inbound Aeromed helicopter carrying a trauma patient to Sarasota Memorial’s new Level II trauma center lost control of its tail rotor 150 feet from touch down and "crash" landed onto the rooftop helipad.

The resulting explosion critically injured several members of the medical flight crew and SMH medical and facilities team stationed on the landing pad to help transport the patient from the helicopter to Sarasota Memorial’s Emergency Care Center. 




The exercise tested Sarasota County's multi-agency response to the disaster and fire-rescue workers efforts to rescue victims trapped in the wreckage under very challenging circumstances: the helicopter pad was engulfed in "flames" and the single elevator needed to transport accident victims from the 5th floor rooftop to the ER on the ground floor was damaged in the crash.

“It was a great scenario that challenged us all,” said Sarasota Memorial Chief of Public Safety Mickey Watson. “It tested the fire-rescue workers’ skills and all of the agencies that support them, as well as our new trauma surgeons and team, who had to make critical triage decisions on what to manage first – in the trauma patient’s case, he had serious wounds from the accident, but also a life threatening heart condition that required immediate intervention and triggered the helicopter flight to the hospital in the first place.”

The exercise took place on the rooftop of the hospital’s Critical Care Tower and included “mock victims” in realistic make-up, as well as in Sarasota Memorial’s newly upgraded trauma resuscitation rooms in its ER.

The drill scenario also simulated extensive structural damage to the hospital and its utilities, allowing the hospital to “activate” and test its downtime (backup) procedures. Among other system checks, the hospital deployed its decontamination unit to manage victims and staff exposed to leaking jet fuel and an automated fire suppression system on its landing pad. It is one of several countywide disaster drills Sarasota Memorial hosts each year in conjunction with local law enforcement, fire-rescue workers and county emergency management officials.

A similar drill will be held at Sarasota Memorial’s North Port ER and outpatient center next week.

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