EARLIER THIS YEAR UCLA had its own D-Day – Disaster Day. The scenario sounded like something out of a Hollywood movie: Terrorists take advantage of a large earthquake to wreak havoc in Southern California by releasing a biological agent, crashing a plane and attacking a cruise ship. As a Level-1 trauma center, UCLA Medical Center was in the thick of it. But even though it was a drill – part of a threecounty exercise in April being run by the U.S. Army and code-named Operation Vector – medical center staff took it very seriously. “We are playing this real and true to the scenario,” said Victor Kennedy, director of the UCLA Health System Safety Office. Once the drill began, he said, “we have little control over external events, just like real life.”
For the hospital, the purpose of the exercise was for medical, administrative and support staff to rehearse coordinating and collaborating with external response agencies in the event of a regional disaster. In addition, as “victims” arrived in ambulances and on board a military helicopter, staff of the medical center were able to practice managing patients who had been exposed to biological agents, including mobilization, triage, treatment and reporting.
The experience gained through such training exercises, UCLA Medical Center officials say, is essential to ensure that, in the event of a natural or man-made disaster, UCLA’s medical and support teams will be prepared to respond appropriately and “will play an indispensable role in helping to save lives and prevent human suffering.”
(Left) A decontamination facility was established adjacent to the Peter V. Ueberroth Building, where "victims" of the mock terrorist attack could be cleaned. (Right) After an Army Black Hawk helicopter lands on the helipad of UCLA Medical Center, ambulatory "victims" of a mock terrorist attack are rushed off to receive treatment.