TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
On March 12, 2020, the 325th Medical Group at Tyndall Air Force Base, partnered with Bay County to participate in a multi-agency emergency response exercise.
Participants in the exercise mainly included the 325th Medical Group, Bay County Emergency Medical Services and Ascension Sacred Heart Bay Medical Center.
“This exercise is happening as an effort to rekindle our relationship with downtown agencies and run through a scenario to ensure hand offs from all three parties are smooth, safe and seamless for our patients,” said Capt. Cameron Smith, a 325th MDG exercise planner.
The scenario featured an accident at the base’s 325th Force Support Squadron’s Auto Hobby Shop. The simulated incident was so severe that mock patients had to be transferred to the local Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital Bay located in downtown Panama City, Florida.
Col. Steven Lehr, 325th MDG commander, oversaw the simulation and the 325th Fighter Wing Inspector General team conducted an evaluation exercise which will serve as part of the wing’s mandatory mass casualty response exercise requirements.
The on base portion of the exercise included the initiating accident, a call for base emergency responders including the 325th Security Forces Squadron, the 325th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department, and the 325th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron Ambulance Services Department, for on-scene medical treatment and a request for local support to Bay County.
“The main benefit is to get the message out that patient safety is our number one priority,” said Smith. “This exercise proves that we work with our civilian counterparts to lock down processes and procedures to give patients the best care possible.”
The off base portion of the exercise included patient transfer from the scene of the incident by Bay County Emergency Medical Services to the local Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital Bay for triage and treatment.
“We have a mutual understanding aide agreement with Tyndall where we respond to help with life support emergency calls,” said Joel Welch, a BCEMS shift commander tasked with staff development and training. “The bigger part is that total team effort. (If) we have any injury at Tyndall, they would call us and we would send transportation for trauma patients to (Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital Bay).”
The goals of the exercise included three key points. The first goal is to demonstrate the 325th Medical Group’s role in and ability to respond to emergency medical situations on the base and the importance of their overall readiness training mission.
“Our medics, like any other career field, need to be attentive, make decisions on the fly and provide safe care to our patients in any given scenario,” said Smith. “By exercising and training, it gives our medics a variety of experience to execute when duty calls, ensuring patients receive safe care and our medics are proficient and confident in their skills.”
The second was to highlight the partnership Tyndall has with Panama City and the surrounding areas in Bay County by conducting joint training.
“When coordinating between three agencies of all different sizes and missions, it creates potential roadblocks, which leaves room for patient harm,” said Smith. “All parties gain knowledge and understanding of how a system works in order to best serve the patient. It identifies any potential issues that can be fixed before it potentially causes harm to a patient or staff.”
Training exercises are held multiple times a year to enhance real-world performance and to mitigate problems that may present themselves.
“We are constantly training and exercising for a variety of scenarios, it simply makes us better at what we do,” said Smith. “We take every opportunity we get to train our people to be the best and continue to push for excellence.”
Essentially, the exercise was a platform for individuals to practice how they would work as a team between the base and the four components of the Emergency Services Department including 911 dispatch call center, emergency management, fire, and emergency medical services.
“If it had been a real case we would do exactly the same thing; provide life support for a patient, non-critical patients we would transfer, and work (as a team) between the interagencies,” said Welch. “When we get the call we are going to deliver whatever assets we have available to help Tyndall.”
The third and final goal was to tell the story of how Airmen and civilian employees at Tyndall, and their families, are better today than they were yesterday and will be better tomorrow than they are today.
“The health care team, being all three agencies (in this case) want to perform flawlessly when it comes to your care,” said Smith. “We want patients to know that they will not have to worry when they call for help or seek medical attention from any of the three agencies. We have practiced, we have trained and we will execute the safest care in the most efficient way.”
For the past 17 months, Tyndall and the surrounding local area have been repairing communications, infrastructure and the economy as a result of a Category 5 hurricane that made landfall Oct. 10, 2018.
“The MDG was one of the fastest organizations to stand back up and start operations after the storm,” said Smith. “We have come so far. In my opinion, we are here, we are stronger and we are embracing the base of the future, pushing to be the best at what we do, day in and day out.”
Hurricane Michael devastated Tyndall Air Force Base, but despite the circumstances, the base has remained resilient and has come a long way.
“Although we may not be the ones giving the care we still have oversight and ensure that our beneficiaries receive the highest quality care in the safest way,” said Smith. “We put our people through scenarios to make them better today, tomorrow, and in the future."