Bronson Methodist Hospital "Nightmare on Portage Street" Decontamination Drill

Start Date: 10/28/2021


Team Sunny was requested, due to Nick and Julia Meiers' 2018 presentation and Team Sunny's previous precense at 5th District Medical Response Coalition meetings, to participate in a decontamination drill for the emergency preparedness unit at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The simulation was based on a mock chemical spill at the Pfizer plant on Portage Street (hence the exercise name) wherein three victims (one with a "service dog") were to arrive to the emergency room of the hospital with varying degrees of chemical burns. ER staff needed to triage and then run the victims through the hospital's decontamination shower. Sunny and I played the role of a Pfizer employee and her service dog. The decontamination staff needed to trouble shoot how they would handle a service dog who needed to remain by his human's side, and may have chemical injuries himself. We were subsequently given the floor during the drill's hotwash to offer observations and recommendations for how to approach the decontamination of a dog as well as the importance of reading canine behavior and using things on hand (peanut butter, crackers or cheese for positive reinforcement; creating a collar, leash, and muzzle from rope or straps) to deal with an upset or injured dog, as well as connecting to a local emergency veterinarion.

Because of the high stress load on staff and the various permissions needed to have Sunny enter the hospital premises, the emergency preparedness coordinator, along with the medical social worker/CISM coordinator, tried to make the most of our visit by arranging for us to arrive early and stay late after the drill in order to visit the staff in the "hardest hit" units. We visited the emergency department, intensive care unit, respiratory/covid unit, neurology, and pediatric units. All safety precautions were taken and we only interacted with two patients (a little girl who was taking a wagon ride around pediatrics and a woman with a head injury who saw us come by and specifically asked for a quick visit). Otherwise our attention was entirely on comforting hospital staff. This was tremendously appreciated and we have been asked to join their CISM team and possibly make more visits.

So while this started as a drill, it ended up feeling more like a deployment. As such, I'll note that we had approximately 100 interactions in the six hours we were at the hospital.

Agency: Bronson Methodist Hospital Emergency Preparedness