Emergency Training: Woodwinds Prepares for the Worst

The Woodbury hospital held an evacuation training session Thursday morning.

When disaster strikes, “the last thing we want to be doing is exchanging business cards.”

That was from Katherine Grimm, system director of emergency preparedness for HealthEast, who helped coordinate an evacuation training program at in Woodbury on Thursday morning.

Dozens of , Cottage Grove and elsewhere came together at Woodwinds for the training session, which was meant to mimic the response a day after a tornado hit.

It’s important for the groups to meet and coordinate a plan, Grimm said.

“If something happens, we’d float right into our roles and get going very quickly,” Grimm said.

The event came against the backdrop of the nearly one-year anniversary of a tornado that destroyed a hospital in Missouri and questions about whether it was prepared for the natural disaster.

In reality, evacuating Woodwinds would be a “last resort,” Grimm said.

“We would do everything we could not to evacuate,” she said, noting generators available in the event of a power outage.

Still, Grimm said it’s good to have a plan in place in case of disaster: which patients would be moved first, which surgeries might have to be delayed and figuring out which hospitals are taking which patients.

Woodwinds officials on Thursday gathered in a makeshift command center near the hospital’s lobby, and volunteers who were wheeled out of the facility on stretchers were taken to St. John’s Hospital, which held a similar event recently. ("Patients" there were transported to Woodwinds.)

Among the observers Thursday was Mike Richardson, the ’s emergency services commander.

About a year ago, Woodwinds officials and the department gathered for a discussion about different scenarios and how each entity would respond, Richardson said. Thursday’s event gave emergency responders a chance to see how it would work in practice.

There are several systems in place in case of a natural disaster, Richardson said, from an EMS “strike team” to coordination at the state level and a “surge” of ambulances that would be available.

“Like any system, there’s a lot of planning that goes into it,” he said.

Cindy Bultena, the chief nursing officer at Woodwinds, agreed.

“In a disaster, if you don’t have clear lines of communication and coordination, it could turn into total chaos,” she said.


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