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Disaster drill continues for local hospitals, public safety staff

June 17, 2009

First responders in hazardous material suits worked alongside U.S. military personnel and hospital officials at area hospitals Tuesday and will continue the operation Wednesday as part of a community disaster drill.

That's why visitors to local hospitals might see military personnel, vehicles and tents Wednesday. Some people trying to get to Froedtert Hospital during the day Wednesday will face a detour.

Ten area hospitals are participating in the drill, according to Froedtert officials. Officials are trying to get the word out so that the exercise, dubbed "Red Dragon," doesn't spark concern that a real disaster is happening.

The drill, which will simulate a dirty bomb explosion at a sporting event, is designed to determine whether area emergency workers are prepared to respond to mass casualty events that require decontamination. It also will assess the military's ability to support local civilian authorities in case of such an emergency. One hundred mock victims will be sent to participating hospitals, and military personnel will set up decontamination camps on hospital grounds.

This is expected to be the largest such drill in the country this year, according to a news release from Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, with the participation of 3,000 military personnel, representatives of federal agencies including FEMA and the FBI, and local firefighting and police authorities. The exercise is the culmination of yearlong military training in disaster management focused on responding to a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incident. Army reservists from throughout the country are expected to participate.

The following hospitals are taking part in the drill: Aurora Medical Center Washington County, Aurora Sheboygan Medical Center, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, Columbia St. Mary's Hospital Ozaukee, Froedtert Hospital, Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, St. Agnes Hospital in Fond du Lac, Waukesha Memorial Hospital, Waupun Memorial Hospital and Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-All Saints in Racine.

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