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Disaster training tests Augusta hospitals for emergencies

GHS disaster drill

GHS Medical Center trains for worst case scenarios during disaster drill Thursday. (WRDW-TV / Sept. 8, 2011)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The events of 9/11 put our nation's emergency responders to a severe test. Today, 10 years later, they're still working hard and training hard just to make sure they're ready.

"We've had an event. Some type of explosion."

That was the call on the GHS Medical Center's radio system. It was the call to action; it was the call to start a drill, a training exercise, after a pretend bomb blast.

"The time to prepare is now, not the day of the event or the day after the event," said Kevin Wells, GHS Medical Center's emergency management supervisor.

They're preparing for an event that leaves people traumatized or contaminated with radiation.

Pat Knowles is a pharmacist by day. That can change with a phone call if something bad happens, and if it does happen, then she's ready in a hazmat suit to help out.

"We make sure that they are rinsed down if that's what's called for depending if it's a chemical, radiation, or whatever kind of disaster it is," said Knowles, who was the decontamination team leader for the exercise.

While she's downstairs processing patients, Kevin Wells is upstairs in the command center where they monitor everything from water supplies to casualties. Wells says medical strategies have evolved a lot since 9/11.

"Ten years ago, a lot of agencies and hospitals did not work together so much in these responses," he said.

Now, every hospital in Augusta is working together just in case something bad happens. Thursday, they processed about 30 people, but medical workers say they can treat hundreds and hundreds of people if they need to.

"It's something we need to practice no matter what time it is," Knowles said. "It's important any time of the year. This just seems to be a typical time we do it."

And they do it a few times a year because one day it might save your life.

"It's exercises like this that allow us to come together and work together now so that we're not trying to meet each other at ground zero and trying to work through these issues," Wells said. "Exercises like this is what allows us to save lives if an event really happens."


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