Aussie Mass Casualty Drill: "A Royal Disaster"

And lest you think I’m being judgemental, I don’t think our joint would do any better:

If the calamity sounds unfamiliar, that is because it was fiction: a massive and intricate role-play designed to reveal any cracks in the preparations of the nearby Royal Adelaide Hospital for a disaster – specifically one in which people were contaminated by chemical, biological or radiological fallout.

Pretty normal, except that the test designers did more with their victims than have them sit on the ground and wait for the school bus:

But as the actors in the so-called Exercise Supreme Truth ran around wildly, demanding medical attention patiently or aggressively in line with instructions on their individual scenario cards, it was not chinks in the hospital’s emergency armour that were exposed so much as gaping chasms…..

“Some were instructed to refuse decontamination. Another had to drive onto the footpath with a dead contaminated friend in the back. We told seven people, ‘without breaking anything, we want you to see if you can get into the hospital’. Within 15 minutes they all got in … All the focus seems to be on police and security but if there is a mass casualty incident where do [authorities] think all the people are going to end up?”

The hospital’s plan demands immediate lockdown, with entry via a single point which is strictly policed. Amid the chaos of Supreme Truth, that proved unenforceable and contaminated patients repeatedly entered “clean” areas…..

And that’s without a real disaster.  We’ve been luck so far, as regards a big intentional BW or radiological mass casualty, and I pray our luck holds out.


  1. I couldn’t tell you what our hospital’s procedure for such an event would be. I didn’t have to go through any type of training for it, since I have nothing to do with patient flow.

    Do you guys go through something upon hiring?

  2. We do that once a year. Jefferson (well might as well come out with it where I work…nobody tell!) is the center for the mass casualty test they do every year in the city of Philadelphia. I’ve never taken part, unfortunately – somehow I missed that day when I actually worked in the ER and didn’t have clinical that day when I was rotating through it! One of these days, I want to be one of the mass casualty patients – put on the makeup and all!

    But in reality – the reports always show that we have a lot to learn. I’m just glad they do these. At least we learn them in practice and not by seeing our faults when the real thing happens…

    It’s exciting to work in a big city, but we do have to prepare for this every day. I work only 5 blocks from the liberty bell, independence hall, the constitution center and so on. We can’t mess around. Glad to see it’s happening in other corners of the world, too!

    Take care,
    Carrie :)

  3. No, we don’t get any special training. What I know about our hopital’s disaster / mass cas plan I found out myself.

    I think most ED’s could handle a single-episode Big Event; we’re Gumby, dammnit! What would crush nearly ny ED would be a bio agent, with hundreds more visits daily, even if it weren’t a fatal agent.

    Sleep tight!

  4. Sadly, there are virtually no hospitals that will be able to handle the mass casualties and traumas and imagined trauma of a nuke blast. I am in a place where one hospital was required to be deemed the ‘event’ hospital due to a reactor facility nearby. This one bay which was allegedly set up for a critically wounded and contaminated person (note the lack of plural…) was no different than any of the others except there was a floor drain in it. Hardly top notch. The staff hadn’t had their yearly triage training in over 10 years. People really need to educate and ready themselves as best they can. We certainly have mass talent in our hospitals…but lack any real coordination for the real thing. What are the numbers?? 10-15% will ‘book’ when the time comes out of fear, leaving the rest to handle it all?