San Antonio-area hospitals, EMS hold region-wide mass casualty drill

Drill simulated mass pandemic influenza crisis

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SAN ANTONIO – If you saw several EMS crews and first responders handling large influxes of patients at area hospitals, know that it was just a drill.

On Wednesday, the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council ran its annual mass casualty exercise and evaluation.

The drill mocked mass pandemic influenza, and almost all hospitals across the STRAC region from San Antonio to Del Rio participated.

"We want to make sure that we are practicing that regularly so that during an actual event we are prepared, and that way we can help save lives," said Angela Lopez with STRAC Support Service Master Control.

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Lopez said last year's drill involved a mass shooting. This year's drill is a response to the H1N1 flu virus outbreak during 2009 and 2017.

"We picked pandemic influenza because it hadn't been tested in a while, and so we recognized that as a gap," she said. "We want to make sure our hospitals and EMS are prepared."

About 700 volunteers took part in the mass drill Wednesday.

The group volunteering at Baptist Medical Center downtown included Health Careers High School students who have an interest in the medical field.

Kristen Lemus, chief nurse executive for the Baptist Health System, said it's important to approach the drill in the most realistic way possible.

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"Bed capacity is always stressful and finding alternate places in your hospital to place patients when you have a situation like this," Lemus said.

She said drills help identify the areas their staff needs to improve on so they are ready for a real-life event.

"Really, when we have these drills, it stresses our system so it gives us an opportunity to know where our weaknesses are and where our strengths are," Lemus said.

Dimmitt Regional Hospital also participated in the drill. 

About the Authors:

Sarah Acosta is a weekend Good Morning San Antonio anchor and a general assignments reporter at KSAT12. She joined the news team in April 2018 as a morning reporter for GMSA and is a native South Texan.

Azian Bermea is a photojournalist at KSAT.