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BAMC tests emergency capabilities during city-wide exercise

Story by Lori Newman
Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs

Nearly 700 volunteers and role players acting as victims, friends and family members participated in the annual exercise designed to assess the surge capabilities of the hospitals in the South Texas region under the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council umbrella.

SAMCEE specifically tests the region’s capabilities to respond to a mass casualty incident by assessing patient reception procedures, treatment processes, and the ability to track patients within the system.

“This is an important opportunity to ensure our readiness in case of a mass casualty incident as well as build on relationships with our community emergency response partners,” said Air Force Col. (Dr.) Patrick Osborn, deputy commander for surgical services. “At BAMC we value these training opportunities that underscore the importance of mission readiness and help ensure we’re prepared to serve anytime, anywhere.”

“Exercises like this are critical for preparation for real world events such as the Sutherland Springs shooting,” Osborn added.

The scenario for this exercise was mass shooting involving explosives at Freeman Coliseum in downtown San Antonio. At BAMC an additional scenario involving a tanker truck containing a chemical agent colliding with a bus carrying patients was added to test the hospital’s ability to decontaminate patients before treatment.

“Exercises such as this are important for our daily operations because we never know when the next mass casualty event is going to be,” said Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Scott Trexler, BAMC trauma medical director. “As a Level I Trauma Center we, along with our partners at University Health, represent the highest level of response for the traumatically injured patient in South Texas so it’s important that we know our system is ready for these no-notice events regardless of when or where they may occur.”

The BAMC trauma mission is unique as the Department of Defense’s primary readiness platform for more than 8,800 personnel who work together to hone their ability to care for patients and sustain wartime trauma care skills.

BAMC evaluates more than 4,000 trauma patients each year. Over 90 percent of those are civilian trauma patients from the local community.

“The benefit of training here (at BAMC) is that we work together as a team,” Trexler said. “Every day we are taking care of traumatically injured patients. This allows our team to work together doing the things they are going to be doing downrange.”

STRAC, whose members include hospitals, health systems and EMS agencies, organized the annual exercise. STRAC has responsibility under state law for planning and coordinating emergency care within a 26,000 square-mile region in South Texas.

“Doing this with our partners benefits the community as a whole,” Trexler said, explaining that the exercise tests the system on many levels, including making sure the right patients are sent to the right location at the right time.

“This is certainly a key to preparation for an event that may affect San Antonio or southern Texas. It allows us to ensure that we have the resources and the skills available to respond to something like this,” Osborn said.

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