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Ref: Oklahoma hospitals prepare staff through first receiver training

Edmonton Sun

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Hospitals practice alertness to stamp out terror

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND— The 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States caused Edmond-area hospitals to bolster security precautions and response plans.
Hospitals investigate their vulnerability to terrorist infiltration by screening health care workers with access to fluids, medicines, gases, compounds and nuclear material.
Worldwide, awareness of screening hospital and health employees was heightened after a group of foreign-born physicians working in British hospitals are alleged to have formed a terrorist cell that reportedly was responsible for planting three inoperable car bombs in London and Glasgow in June.
Edmond Medical Center and Mercy Health Center utilize homeland security preparedness as a defensive shield against terrorism and natural disasters. The hospitals have identified security-sensitive areas.
“There’s not a lot of materials here that someone could really get a hold of, and the materials that are here are kept under lock,” said John Hestand, EMC’s director of plant operations and safety officer.
Radioactive material is locked away. Security systems monitor each area of the building.
“No one has access to that except the staff members who operate that particular room to get their medicine,” Hestand said. “It would be very difficult for someone, unless they broke into the room and knew where it was at, and that area is occupied 24/7.”
Security-sensitive areas are monitored frequently, Hestand said. Infectious waste at EMC is sequestered in a locked bin with limited access and removed three times a week, he said.
“We also instruct our employees on how to look for odd behavior,” Hestand said. “An employee could be acting odd, just as well as a visitor coming into the facility.”
The Metro Emergency Response Command Center has a system of resources available for hospitals to use during a natural disaster or terrorism event. Hospitals can coordinate their needs.
Today, EMC is constructing a decontamination building funded by a recent $26,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security. By Aug. 30, Mercy will have utilized a $140,000 Homeland Security grant to place access control on all hospital security-sensitive areas and exterior entrances.
“In the event we need to lock this place down, we can do it from pushing a button in one location,” said Kevin Roy, Mercy environmental health and safety officer.
Access control security measures are in place to protect stored radioactive isotopes in radiology. Security tracks who enters and exits the area, Roy said.
EMC verifies that all licensing is updated and references completed, said Leslie Buford, director of community relations. “An employee cannot physically come into the hospital if their license has expired,” she said.
Area hospitals have common practices for terrorism screening, Hestand said.
Every Mercy employee is screened by a private security company, said Kerri Beasley, Mercy nurse recruiter. Screening processes utilize a terrorism watch list, a Social Security card check, Medicare fraud and abuse data, a track report with previous addresses listed from credit reports and a criminal report based on the last seven counties of residence.
Medical licenses are verified, including investigating physicians and health-care workers through the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. Verification is needed to prove that staff legally can work in the United States.
“As far as I know, we’ve never had anyone come up who’s been listed as a potential terrorist,” Beasley said.
Also, Mercy’s emergency oversight committee participates in two community disaster training groups every year with EMC and other regional medical groups. A hazard vulnerability assessment is conducted by both hospitals for means of improvement.
“We list all of those types of events that could occur in our community,” Hestand said. “It could be a terrorist attack. It could be a tornado. And we look at those particular events and grade them as far as probability ... and how prepared we are to respond.”
EMC examines if the risk associated with a catastrophic event still allows the hospital to continue offering quality care for patients they may receive. Resources are designated more to high-risk events such as tornadoes.
“That doesn’t mean we don’t look at anthrax attacks or biohazard attacks,” Hestand said.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health offers a First Receivers Training course to hospitals. Awareness training helps people recognize a contaminated victim.
Roy recently returned from Homeland Security training in Alabama. Sessions he participated in included incident command structure training and biological weapons of mass destruction training.
For example, physicians have been trained to begin discharging patients to make room to receive casualties of a terrorist incident.
“Different types of events happen all over the world,” Hestand said. “And we’re trying to prepare for those events.”

The Details
To learn more about preparedness against terrorism, visit the Department of Homeland Security Web site at

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