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UPMC Presby Holds Emergency Preparedness Drill To Simulate Mass Casualty Event

Kathleen J. Davis
90.5 WESA
An ambulance outside UPMC Presbyterian Emergency during the emergency preparedness drill on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017.

A female college student stood in a room at UPMC Presbyterian hospital Thursday morning, laughing as another student tended to her gunshot wounds -- one on either side of her belly button.

It was just a drill. They were actually fine-tuning the makeup used to create the fake injury. 

The two women were among about 75 physicians, several dozen nurses and fellow student volunteers who participated in UPMC Presbyterian's emergency preparedness drill.

Credit Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA
Two "victims" get picked up by an ambulance during UPMC Presbyterian's emergency preparedness drill Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017.

The drill simulated a non-specific terrorist event, leaving 57 "victims" with a mix of blunt and penetrating trauma in need of treatment. A group of college students who volunteered were covered in makeup made to look like gunshot wounds and other traumic injuries.  

Emergency preparedness drills happen about twice a year at UPMC, according to David Toma, Director of Environmental Health and Safety UPMC. Though the drill took place just days after Sunday's mass shooting in Las Vegas, Toma stressed that this drill had been planned for months, and was actually a response to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla. last year that left 50 people dead.

In the past, drills have simulated an influx of injuries due to scenarios such as industrial accidents, natural disasters and bioterrorism. Adam Tobias, emergency medicine physician at UPMC, said the hospital staff has to be prepared to handle all sorts of emergency events.

Credit Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA
Two local college students create a leg wound with makeup and fake blood based on the injury assigned for the drill.

"We have an extensive plan to prepare for a variety of instances, but all of these plans need to be continuously updated," Tobias said. "We use exercises like today's to help us guide us to determine what improvements need to be made."

Toma said Thursday's drill showed the hospital was able to successfully accommodate an influx of trauma patients, though communication between hospital staff could be improved.

"Overall we're very pleased with the outcome [of the drill]," Tobias said. "We've been planning this for quite some time and there's a lot of moving pieces to pull something like this off, and it went really well."