Cincinnati has a mass casualty response plan

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - With more than 170 injuries and three deaths in Monday's explosions at the Boston Marathon, hospitals and emergency rooms were swamped with victims.

After those explosions near the race's finish line, dozens of victims were headed to the nearest emergency room.

Here in the Tri-State, there is a big plan in place to mobilize command centers at hospitals when faced with disasters of this magnitude.

The question now is, can our area handle this kind of emergency response?

"You would never want to be the community that was not prepared and have this happen to your citizens, to those that you vow to take care of," said Tonda Francis, who is the vice president at the Greater Cincinnati Health Council and regional healthcare disaster coordinator.

The Greater Cincinnati Health Council coordinates the Hospital Disaster Network system with first responders, hospitals and emergency management agencies.  But, it all starts with EMS on scene.

"When EMS arrives on a scene and determines that there is mass casualties involved that will need transport to the hospitals, they send a message through the dispatch center for the hospitals to activate the network," added Francis.

From there, each hospital figures out what they can handle in their emergency departments at that time.  Some of those patients would head to one of four trauma centers around our region.  UC Medical Center and Cincinnati Children's Hospital would see the most critical patients as Level 1 trauma centers.  There are also two Level 3 trauma centers in our area, those being Bethesda North and Atrium Medical Center.

Planning a system like this started about 35 years ago when the Beverly Hills Supper Club went up in flames, leaving more than 150 people dead.

For at least the last 10 years, the system has been reviewed, intensely planned and constantly practiced.  Not long ago, the system was actually mobilized for a disaster.

"The Hospital Disaster Network was activated for the auto accidents in January on I-75 and I-275.  That's been our most recent use.  We do test the system twice a month, minimally," Francis told FOX19.

Another way plans are fine tuned for the system here is by looking at other incidents.  Officials look at "after action" reports from hospitals who have just dealt with these disasters.  They look at lessons learned, and figure out where they need to make improvements to their system to make sure they're ready for anything.

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