SAN ANTONIO -

The Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council put San Antonio-area hospitals and emergency crews to the test with a mass casualty drill Thursday morning.

"Emergency departments are always prepared to deal with the most critical patients every single day, but they may not be prepared to deal with (as many as) three dozen patients all at once," said Eric Epley, executive director of STRAC.

In Thursday's scenario, patients came off a military transport plane from Tulsa, where tornados damaged hospitals. At the same time, tornadoes hit the San Antonio area. In all, about 450 people needed medical care.

STRAC used the test to see if area hospitals and EMS can handle the extra load.

"We test our ability in San Antonio to triage these patients when they come in, to be able to treat them, transport them to an appropriate hospital. For today's scenario, we've got 26 hospitals in Bexar County alone participating," William Putnicki, an EMS shift commander for the San Antonio Fire Department, said.

Part of the challenge was just tracking the patients. Each student acting as a patient from Tulsa had a bracelet when they came off the plane at Port San Antonio. Once they arrived, they received a second bracelet that was scanned at the hospital.

In a real emergency, tracking the patients would help loved ones get in touch with each other.

Agencies took notes throughout the drill and participants received surveys about how it went.

STRAC will hold an after-action meeting and also put out a report on how the drill went.

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