A quiet Thursday morning in Hillsborough County erupted into chaos as reports of a bomb blast and strings of mass shootings flooded hospitals with victims suffering from traumatic injuries with little time to prepare. These simulated mass casualty events popped up throughout the county, from suburban Tampa to Brandon, to Ruskin to Fort Lonesome and anywhere in between. Over 45 agencies came together to respond to this Mass Casualty Incident in a county-wide operation.
Over 500 actors from Hillsborough Community College and other local organizations were given casualty cards, moulaged with fake wounds and dropped at the doorstep of every hospital in the county - even the ones without Emergency Rooms, like Shriners Hospital for Children and Moffitt Cancer Center - to be treated by the staff.
From the time of the initial reports, all 16 hospitals transformed from routine operations to emergency management and response sites. Each one having its own Command Center in charge of that hospital's operations during the exercise. Nurses turned into Triage Specialists, administrators into Transporters, accountants into Public Information Officers, and Surgeons into Incident Commanders to fill the needs of the complex situation and add some control to the chaos.
In the middle of all of this, a select group of trained government officials, Medical Reserve Corps volunteers, CERT Members, and Medical Students served as exercise evaluators, documenting the actions of their hospital from start to finish. USF CERT supplied evaluators to hospitals like Shriners, South Bay, South Florida Baptist, St. Joseph's, Memorial, Moffitt Cancer Center, and more.
The experience of evaluating such a massively scaled exercise and being able to see first-hand the response from behind closed doors in each hospital was an absolutely amazing opportunity. During next year's exercise, we look forward to both providing our services as evaluators once again, as well as acting in victim and response roles.