St. John Valley

Exercise tests fire response readiness

FORT KENT, Maine — In today’s climate of increasing environmental and man-made emergencies, the need to be prepared to respond to and manage emergency situations is a matter of necessity. It is not if an event will occur as much as it is when an event will occur.  

In healthcare, it is even more critical to be prepared, since healthcare workers must ensure the safety of patients who are unable to fend for themselves.

A 2016 survey conducted by the National Fire Protection Agency reported fires in healthcare facilities were generally down, yet cooking was the leading cause of healthcare fires between 2009 -2013.

Armed with these facts, the Northern Maine Medical Center (NMMC) Emergency Preparedness Committee staged a kitchen fire drill Oct. 19 at Forest Hill Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center.

Members of the Student Nurses Organization (SNO), from the University of Maine at Fort Kent, volunteered to be the victims in the simulated fire explosion. Each student was cast with mock injuries in varying degrees of severity, and each was provided with a scenario to act out their specific injuries during the exercise.

The scenario of an explosion in the kitchen-dining area of Forest Hill resulted in multiple simulated casualties, primarily smoke inhalation and burns. The Fort Kent Fire and Police Departments and the Ambulance Service both responded to the simulated incident to assist in managing the situation. Seven victims were transported by Emergency Medical Services to NMMC, where they were triaged and treated.

The full scale exercise tested personnel at each facility and challenged the preparedness of community resources and emergency responders.

Jill Daigle, RN and drill coordinator with Dr. Erik St. Pierre said, “The drill was very successful. A lot of planning goes into a drill of this caliber. ASI, FKFD and FKPD collaborated well with FH and NMMC during this event. The SNO victims who acted out their roles made the event even more realistic.

“As with anything, this is a learning exercise and we all walked away with areas to improve,” Daigle added. “With each drill we improve our plans.  We hope we never have to use them, but these drills prepare us when we are faced with a situation which requires immediate response.

Daigle also commented on the fact that the patience of Forest Hill residents and family members during the disruption at the dinner hour was a great support to drill participants.

A debriefing and critique was held Oct. 23 to document lessons learned and to make recommendations for improvement in the response plan.

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