Yokosuka hospital tests terror readiness
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Wednesday was rough for Navy corpsman Nikki Collins.
A terrorist bus exploded in her barracks. She broke her femur. She fractured a cervical bone. She was exposed to a chemical agent, then hosed down in a decontamination process. Then she died when a fireman accidentally moved her head.
“That’s when my part was over,” said Collins, who lived to tell the story of the U.S. Naval Hospital’s mass casualty exercise. “I was done.”
She was one of four fake fatalities resulting from a high-intensity scenario played out Wednesday afternoon among U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka, local fire departments, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces (JMSDF), Explosive Ordnance Disposal and other emergency personnel.
The three-hour drill was to test the hospital’s capacity to respond to a terrorist attack on the base, said Lt. Robert Windom, U.S. Naval Hospital’s emergency manager.
“If your clinic is used to one patient an hour, having three in an hour is taxing. We wanted to see how we function when we exceed our operating capacity,” Windom said. “We had 30 victims today, 18 on the U.S. side, 12 on the Japanese side. That’s pretty big for us.”
The scenario was this: A bus enters through Womble Gate. A high-speed chase ensues with base security. The bus takes the first right and smashes into a JMSDF van, just outside the enlisted barracks. A chemical agent is released.
The response is quickly planned, coordinated and executed. More than 100 responders are mustered. Decontamination tents are erected. Japanese-speaking interns are brought to the scene for translation. Victims are assessed and cared for.
“Overall it was very successful,” Windom said. “We had both the JMSDF and USNH triage units working together and that went fairly well.”
A “hot-wash” was held afterward to reflect on the day and take comments and suggestions for improvement.
The hospital hosts large-scale drills like this twice a year, Windom said. In June, they set up an emergency clinic in Ikego, he said.
For her part, Collins liked the exercise, even if she had to die.
“It was good to be a part of this,” she said. “The practice could come in handy, given the world we live in.”