Homeland Security Drill Tests Emergency Readiness

A two day Homeland Security drill called "Lifesaver 2003" is testing the preparedness of emergency medical workers.

The scenario is simple. Military hospitals, including Keesler Medical Center are overwhelmed with wartime casualties. Hundreds of patients must be taken to civilian hospitals for treatment.

The Air National Guard hangar becomes a regional triage center. Dozens of war wounded test the readiness of military and civilian emergency medical teams.

"How are you feeling?", asked an emergency worker to a patient on the stretcher.

"Pain, it hurts," was the response.

Doug Sims is the Incident Commander for the two day drill.

"This is a mission that we don't get to practice very often which is cooperating with the military in a mass casualty evacuation. So, it's very, very important," he said.

The injuries may be simulated but the exercise is real time, where the clock is critical and medical procedures are by the book. The flood of incoming patients creates a frenzy of activity.

"She needs to go! You've got a gunshot wound to the right chest down there," directed one physician as he spoke to a team of care givers.

"It teaches us a lot of things about how our military interacts with our civilian counterparts. So, we learn to speak the same language so we can effectively provide that homeland defense," said safety officer, Shae Peters.

"Teamwork is essential. We can't have any renegades out here trying to do things as the Lone Ranger," she explained.

Following triage, the most critical patients are readied for transport by ambulance and helicopter. The wounded are headed for civilian hospitals.

"Singing River, Memorial, Hancock, Biloxi Regional. They're all participating. Ocean Springs. They're all participating in this exercise," said Sims.

It's an exercise that tests both readiness and response, in case the teams are called on for the real thing.

Although the exercise scenario involves the casualties of war, the National Disaster Medical System is also prepared to lend assistance in natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes.