News Release

Date: July 24, 2008 

Public Safety Training Exercise ‘Operation Golden Phoenix’ Takes Flight

 

 

UC San Diego Medical Center Puts Knowledge into Practice with Local, State and Federal Agencies

Imagine turning on the morning news to find out that the San Diego community had been contaminated with a bio-terrorism agent, such as anthrax.  Would an influx of injured and worried people suddenly descend on local hospitals?  How would traffic be handled?  What about security and health risks?   

Those are just some of the questions UC San Diego Medical Center, Hillcrest and La Jolla, aimed to answer by participating in a massive, county-wide safety exercise that also engaged law enforcement agencies and the military.  The hospital exercise, part of a four-day training event called “Operation Golden Phoenix,” allowed local, state and federal agencies to join with partners, including other local hospitals, in a simulated response to a mock bio-terrorism attack.  Wednesday’s component of the drill, with a focus on patient and crowd management, kicked off early morning at UC San Diego’s Hillcrest facility. The exercise continued later at Thornton Hospital and Scripps Memorial in La Jolla.

Irving Jacoby, M.D.

Irving "Jake" Jacoby, M.D., Emergency Physician, live interview with 10News' Jennifer Jensen

“We were so pleased with the support from San Diego Police Department, Marine Aircraft Group-46 (Marine Forces Reserve), as well as UCSD Campus Police, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and a host of other players,” said Therese Rymer, F.N.P., Director, UC San Diego Medical Center Emergency Preparedness and Response.  “This exercise really highlighted our ability to work together.  We tested new procedures and are looking forward to continued growth and joint planning.”

 

Police Checkpoint

SDPD Mock check point near Hillcrest campus

Law enforcement practiced with medical center security to secure each hospital entrance and assist with alarmed “patients.” Members of the DEA, assisted by helicopter, provided security detail for the movement of needed medications.

Actor as patient

Injured patient-actors begin arriving at hospital

"UCSD really pushed the envelope for this event, setting a standard for other hospitals and medical centers to strive for," noted Special Agent Mark Coast, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, Technical Operations Group 1, San Diego Field Division, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.  "Overall, I think it was extremely successful: we learned a great deal about operations, logistics, communications, and personnel and the reverse 911 set up by UC San Diego worked well.  This entire event was a lot of work, but worth it, due to the knowledge we gleaned from it." 

ICC operations

Incident Command Center in full swing

Beginning at 7 a.m., San Diego Police Department representatives greeted vehicles at a mock “check point” near the Hillcrest hospital (with a related drill beginning at 8 a.m. at Thornton Hospital).  Marines and other volunteers portraying injured “patients,” were directed to triage areas outside the hospitals.  Those “patients” who appeared to be exposed to anthrax were sent to decontamination areas, washed down, and screened for further injuries.

Decontamination tent

Decontaming patients

 

hospital triage

Triage set up in front of UC San Diego Medical Center, Hillcrest

“In emergency healthcare we say ‘Always expect the unexpected’,” explained Colleen Buono, M.D., Department of Emergency Medicine.  “We don’t know when or where a disaster may occur but the more we practice and discover small nuances for improvement, the better we are in a real event.”

 

Media Crews

Media crews from Channels 7,8, and 10 followed the action

“This situation is about as close to reality as we can get,” pointed out UC San Diego Medical Center CEO Rich Liekweg.  “It gives our team an excellent chance to test our decontamination, triage and communication skills.  We note our successes but also look for gaps and areas of improvement, with the goal of providing our community with the best possible emergency medical care and the most experienced team.”

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Media Contact:  Kim Edwards, 619-543-6163, kedwards@ucsd.edu