Practice makes perfect
UD, local responders practice emergency response protocols
3:05 p.m., July 29, 2011--When Bob Alphin discovered two coworkers injured and unconscious on the floor in one of the labs of the C.C. Allen Biotechnology Laboratory, it set in motion a process that soon involved emergency personnel from the campus and state agencies and other institutions.
In this case, the two victims -- Brian Ladman and Erin Bernberg -- were only pretending to be unconscious, but the pretense had a serious purpose: Testing the University's emergency response protocols.
The scenario for the full-scale exercise was created by Michael Gladle, director of Environmental Health and Safety, Marcia Nickle, emergency preparedness manager in Campus and Public Safety, and Ladman, who is an associate scientist at Allen Lab, to give participants a chance to see how they might react in a true crisis.
The exercise, which took place Wednesday afternoon, July 27, at Allen Lab, involved not only staff from the lab and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), but also participants from UD Police, Environmental Health and Safety, Facilities and the Office of Communications and Marketing, as well as Aetna Hose Hook and Ladder Fire Company, the New Castle County Hazmat/DECON team, the Delaware departments of Agriculture, Public Health and Natural Resources and Environmental Control and Christiana Care Health System at Christiana Hospital. University Media Services taped the exercise for use in future training.
Three hours after the exercise began, the participants gathered in the Commons at Townsend Hall to eat pizza and talk about how the exercise went.
Skip Homiak, executive director of campus and public safety, thanked everyone for participating and called the exercise a valuable opportunity to test the response process. "In this kind of situation, we know that many different responding agencies will be involved, so exercises such as this are a great way to get to know each other better and to see how we can work together as a team."
Tara Lydick of Delaware Public Health Laboratories, who was an evaluator for the exercise, praised the participants for their adaptability, flexibility and professional manner. She said they were able to overcome some communications issues and establish good information flow.
Lydick said she was particularly impressed that Robin Morgan, dean of CANR, accompanied the victims to Christiana Hospital. "It's a great idea to have someone there who knows the victims and can provide information about them."
Speaking as one of the victims, Bernberg particularly thanked the first responders. "It's gratifying to know that there are all these people who will come help you if you need it."
Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson