KINGSPORT, Tenn. - People flooded some emergency rooms in Northeast Tennessee Wednesday, but it was all part of a hospital emergency drill.
About 30 counties participated in the event and each hospital received dozens of patients in anticipation of a mass causality.
When something happens and people need help fast they turn to hospital staff in hopes they'll be able to respond quickly. "In a disaster people are going to come to us for help, and we need to be prepared for that," says Wellmont's emergency management director Alan Bagley.
Bagley tells us the hospital was one of 54 in Northeast Tennessee participating in an emergency drill. "We're testing the ability of the hospital to take on a large population that comes in, basically from a disaster," adds Bagley.
The patients show a card that details their injury, then a nurse brings them into a room and they're seen by a doctor based on how serious their injury is. "Running patient to patient, interacting with them with all their different injuries, different types of pathology, kind of gives you a sense for what you would have to run into in the real thing," says orthopedic surgery intern Michael Knight.
So what is a usual day like in the emergency room at Holston Valley? We learned they see about 200 patents in 24 hours, so this drill gives the staff half of the patients they would see in a day all at once. "We want to be sure that there is a reality-based system in fact so when our nurses and our staff treat a patient, they can actually use equipment to do so," adds Bagley.
The drill isn't free, even though the mock patients are high school students volunteering. Bagley tells us it costs each hospital additional money because they have to pay staff members to come in and provide equipment.
Knight tells us he learned a valuable lesson, along with the rest of the staff -- "To always be prepared, to always be ready for something like this to happen because it could happen at any time," says Knight.
The drill was put on by several organizations across the state, including Tennessee Homeland Security and the Tennessee Department of Health.
Bagley tells us the drill was a success, but each year they make changes as needed.