FORT KENT — In today’s climate of increasing environmental and man-made emergencies, the need to be prepared to respond to and manage emergency situations is a matter of necessity. It is not if an event will occur as much as it is when an event will occur. In healthcare, it is even more critical to be prepared, since the role is not only to keep oneself safe, but it is also the responsibility healthcare workers to keep patients who are unable to fend for themselves, safe and free from harm.
A 2016 survey conducted by the National Fire Protection Agency reported, “Structure fires in health care facilities have generally followed a steady downward trend over the past decade.” It also reported that cooking was the leading cause of fires in all health care properties between 2009 -2013.
Armed with these facts, the Northern Maine Medical Center (NMMC) Emergency Preparedness Committee staged a kitchen fire at Forest Hill Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center on October 19th.
Members of the Student Nurses Organization (SNO), from the University of Maine at Fort Kent, volunteered to be the victims in the simulated fire explosion. Each student was cast with mock injuries in varying degrees of severity and each was provided with a scenario to act out their specific injuries during the drill. The scenario of an explosion in the kitchen-dining area of Forest Hill resulted in multiple simulated casualties, primarily smoke inhalation and burns. The Fort Kent Fire and Police Departments and the Ambulance Service both responded to the simulated incident to assist in managing the situation. A total of seven victims were transported by Emergency Medical Services to NMMC where they were triaged and treated.
The full scale exercise tested personnel at each facility as well as challenging the preparedness of community resources and emergency responders. Jill Daigle, RN and Drill Coordinator with Dr. Erik St. Pierre said, “The drill was very successful. A lot of planning goes into a drill of this caliber. ASI, FKFD and FKPD collaborated well with FH and NMMC during this event. The SNO victims who acted out their roles made the event even more realistic. As with anything, this is a learning exercise and we all walked away with areas to improve. With each drill we improve our plans. We hope we never have to use them, but these drills prepare us when we are faced with a situation which requires immediate response.” Daigle also commented on the fact that the patience of Forest Hill residents and family members during the disruption at the dinner hour was a great support to drill participants. A debriefing and critique was held on October 23rd to document lessons learned and to make recommendations for improvement in the response plan.
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