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Medical personnel treat injured residents during a drill last week in Carlsbad. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Emergency responders take part in county drill

CARLSBAD — Dozens of first responders came together last week for one of the county’s largest drills to combat blocked access to medical facilities.

Among the participants were the county responders, hospital staff, Red Cross, EMT personnel, Certified Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers, military and others, who took over Carlsbad’s state-of-the-art safety training center off Orion Road.

Jack Welch, strategic national stockpile coordinator for the county, said the scenario was design to cut off access to Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside after a mudslide. As a result, first responders created an alternate care site at the center to categorize patients and communicate with other city and county officials to determine safe access to other county hospitals.

“We have to open up an alternative care site, just like these,” Welch said. “We are going to have medical intensive care nurses here, that will be finding hospitals for them.”

The CERT members acted out various injuries with the aide of make up. Some were transported by ambulance, where the professionals would assign them one of three tents depending on their status.

The tents, meanwhile, are like mobile hospitals customized with power, heating and other amenities for medical professionals to treat and diagnose those affected by the natural disaster.

During the drill, six tents, about 100 feet long, were connected to move patients and personnel. Each was color labeled for the appropriate diagnosis such as minor injures and stocked with cots, tables and medical supplies.

“We can predict where we can and cannot go,” Welch said of the logistics. “It is set up so we can put it at any football field. We have several of these configured tents around the county.”

Also part of the drill were stations for reunification of friends and families along with translators for non-English speakers and the deaf.

Welch, meanwhile, is responsible for coordinating with state and federal officials to secure supplies after such incidents. He said the county has its own stockpile, but additional resources for large-scale situations require further assistance, which he does through various agencies.

Although the Carlsbad Fire Department didn’t participate, Division Chief Mike Lopez said multi-agency drills are critical for all parties.

“The fact we can provide the county with this kind of set up, is huge,” Lopez said. “The set up doesn’t want for minor injuries to inundate our local hospitals. They will get triaged out in the field and end up talking to a hospital or … they will say let’s take our patients to the alternative care center.”

Bridging communication gaps and logistics coordination is among the most beneficial aspects of the training. Because disasters create chaos and confusion, the more training for the professionals and CERT members, the better, Lopez added.

Nearly every city in the county has a CERT program and Carlsbad’s recent crop graduated and was recognized by the City Council two weeks ago. Lopez said the civilian volunteers are a “huge asset” to the cities as they assist in whatever capacity needed from logistics to gathering and dispensing food and water.

“Having our CERT members has been an addition to our city,” Lopez said. “Whatever the needs are, they bend over backwards. What it boils down to is neighbors helping neighbors.”