Disaster drill helps prepare Travis Air Force Base, Solano area hospitals

Volunteers and medical personnel teamed up on Wednesday as Solano County and Travis Air Force Base prepared for a disaster.

The scenario of an earthquake hitting the county isn't too far fetched so the local hospitals sprung into action like it was the real deal. 

"We truly had our adrenaline going," said Joann Abrams, a registered nurse at NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield. Wednesday morning she was also acting as the incident commander. "We were going in emergency mode." 

Thursday's scenario was based on several large earthquakes and aftershocks hitting Northern California. Several buildings and a large fuel tank collapsed on the base resulting in a mass casualty and hazardous material emergency, under the mock emergency. 

The base team was tested on emergency response, containment of a fuel spill and recovery operations. In total, more than 40 people suffered injuries and went to neighboring hospitals for medical care.

Other hospitals in in the drill were Kaiser Permanente in Vacaville, NorthBay's VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville and Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo.

The base was also named an outbound aircraft hub for Bay Area patients as well as an inbound for medical supplies/relief.

The scenario also laid out challenges like downed communications, massive casualty numbers and a shelter-in-place procedure.

"We expeditiously get the seriously wounded to the medical care that they need and by working closely with our civilian partners we ensure we send the patients to the correct hospitals," explained Col. Lisa Kuhar, the on-scene medical commander at the base theater collapse. Kuhar works at David Grant Medical Center as the chief of Aerospace Medicine. "We want to make sure that we are sending the patients to the hospitals that can give them the right care. We don't want to overload any one hospital, but get all the patients out of here to definitive care as quickly as possible. We want to make certain that our folks are trained on how to interact with civilian partners and how to safely but quickly take care of multiple casualties." 

Initially there were 40 victims and most of those patients stayed at David Grant Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base. 

However, there were patients transported to local hospitals outside of the base. With the help of Solano County Office of Emergency Services, patients were transported by ambulance, eight were taken to NorthBay Medical Center and seven were take to Vaca Valley Hospital in Vacaville. 

"It went very well," said Michael Modrich, trauma, stroke and STEMI program coordinator. "The communication system we were testing appeared to work fairly well." 

Abrams agreed. 

"I felt like we were pretty prepared," she said after the drill. "We can always improve communication and make sure the left hand knows what the right hand is do-ing." 

It was the first such drill for Tuoro University students Lynda Hoang and Roger Villanueva who were acting as doctors. 

"It's been very useful," Villanueva said. "It makes you think on the spot." 

"We used what we learned from the hospital setting out here," Hoang said. 

Travis personnel agreed. 

"From the base's perspective, this exercise was a huge success working in cooperation with our local communities and first responders," said Dan Johnson, chief of inspections and exercises at Travis. "There are always things to learn and make better, but that's the purpose of these types of exercises."

Follow Staff Writer Melissa Murphy at Twitter.com/ReporterMMurphy.