Henry Mayo Joins In L.A. County Disaster Volunteer Training Exercise
Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in Valencia will join forces on Friday with five other hospitals throughout Los Angeles County in what Henry Mayo officials call the biggest disaster volunteer training exercise of its kind in the nation.
L.A. County’s “Full-Scale Exercise for the Deployment of Disaster Healthcare Volunteers” is all about practicing and being prepared to share qualified volunteers and resources where and when they’re needed most in a disaster.
The scenario for Friday’s exercise is “The Big One” – a large, magnitude 6-plus earthquake, said Terry Stone, a safety officer and emergency preparedness manager for Henry Mayo, one of 13 county-designated Disaster Resource Centers.
L.A. County Surge Unit is volunteer central
“Disaster healthcare volunteers are pre-registered with the L.A. County Surge Unit,” Stone said. “In a large earthquake, we would anticipate the need for additional staff to supplement ours at Henry Mayo, in which case we would contact the Surge Unit and request additional staff. So the exercise is focusing on the disaster healthcare volunteers and the process of requesting them from the county, for the hospitals receiving them and processing them, orienting them, and giving them an assignment.”
In a disaster, professionals and volunteers would be matched by county health officials with needs at the area’s hospitals, and called up and sent where needed. For Friday’s training, Henry Mayo has requested about 50 volunteers, ranging from physicians to people who can deliver equipment and supplies. They’ll be coming to Valencia from all over the county.
“The exercise is not just for licensed healthcare personnel. It’s for non-licensed people, because in a disaster, we need people to do everything,” Stone said.
The same exercise will take place simultaneously at Little Company of Mary in San Pedro, Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital in Whittier, UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, Northridge Hospital Medical Center and the California Hospital Medical Center in downtown Los Angeles.
How the exercise benefits Santa Clarita Valley residents
“It benefits our community because we will have exercised the process to be able to get an extension for our staff,” Stone said. “In any big disaster, our staff that is here will probably stay here and probably have extended hours. We’re going to need to replace those people, because they’re eventually going to be exhausted, and they may not be able to get home. So, we may need other people to come in and take their places. And having gone through this exercise, we will know exactly how that works.”
Friday’s exercise is not open to the public, but Stone said people who would like to become disaster preparedness volunteers are welcome to sign up and begin the qualification process to be added to the volunteer labor pool. L.A. County’s Surge Unit will have recruiting booths set up at Henry Mayo’s main entrance off McBean Parkway and at the Pavilion entrance from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Preparedness in a post-9/11 world
Though Friday’s scenario envisions a major earthquake hitting Southern California, the volunteer exercises began in the aftermath of a man-made disaster: the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center twin towers in New York.
“There was a presidential mandate that every state will have a registry so that the whole country is ready,” Stone said, “so recruiting people for (disaster volunteer) registries and getting people involved in registries has been going on for a number of years.”
The county’s disaster volunteers get some type of training each year; last year’s was what Stone called a “functional exercise” using a hotel room to simulate the hospital and to work out what the volunteers would do in a disaster.
“That was a build-up to actually conducting a full-scale exercise this year,” she said.
County health officials also have a plan in place in the event of a terrorist attack like 9/11 or a bombing like the one at this year’s Boston Marathon.
“If we had that type of incident happen in downtown L.A., L.A. County would send an emergency notification out to all of the volunteers who are signed up, requesting their availability,” Stone said. “They would respond and say, ‘Yes, I’m available, I can go,’ or ‘No, I’m not,’ and if they are, then a short time later they would receive an assignment. So, ‘Report to California Hospital at 9,’ for instance.”
Are you ready for ‘The Big One?’
As important as preparation by public officials, hospitals and disaster healthcare volunteers is, preparedness for The Big One – an earthquake with a magnitude well above 6 – starts at home.
“That’s what we’re anticipating within the next however many years it is, but we know it’s coming,” Stone said. “And preparing is first of all getting yourself prepared. Everybody has a responsibility to do, because you can’t help other people unless you’re prepared yourself.”
Stone said that involves “building a kit with supplies, food and water, and then making a plan so you actually know what you’re going to be doing, where you’re going to go, who your family’s going to contact so that you all can communicate with each other, and then, ultimately, staying informed.”
Find out more about Henry Mayo and its disaster preparedness at the hospital’s website, www.henrymayo.com, or by calling 661-253-8000.