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Ridgecrest Hospital participates with China Lake in disaster drill

Ridgecrest Regional Hospital staff collaborated with employees at China Lake for a Mass Casualty Incident drill on Feb. 9, part of the Citadel Shield exercise, to test responses during emergencies. 

Volunteer “victims” were transported to the RRH Emergency Department during the drill. Staff erected a staging ground to receive, triage, and treat patients who arrived in clusters at unannounced intervals. 

“These drills are so important for the hospital and the community,” said Jim Suver, CEO of RRH. “As many of us are aware, we are not immune to mass disasters, and preparedness is key — especially when it comes to our partnership with the base.”

In addition to the 2019 earthquakes, which had a massive impact on the hospital, RRH has seen active-shooter situations, chemical exposure patients, and other real-life emergent situations that have informed and refined responses.

From left to right: Kim Rubin, LVN, Rana Khalifeh, LVN, Galen Hunsinger, RN and Melissa Parkinson, RN, BSN, CEN, Trauma Coordinator, and Lupe Pimentel, Lead Certified Phlebotomist, practicing triage protocols.

For last week’s drill, participants were assigned various roles to perform in order to test hospital procedures and responses. Others, assigned as observers, evaluated how well the logistics were coordinated and care was delivered.

“I believe everyone learned a lot,” said Stephanie Meeks, who oversees emergency management for the hospital and served as coordinator for the RRH part of the exercise. 

“During the long COVID era, organizations and agencies could not perform in-person drills like this, and it was good to return to a full, functional exercise. I am very glad the base invited us!”

Meeks said staff performed well during the drill, revealing great strengths and opportunities to improve processes.

“I hope we see more drills like this in the future — not just in partnership with the base, but with the college, our school district, and other large organizations,” said Meeks. “It’s not just an important opportunity to solidify those relationships, but a chance for us to learn about our local agencies and see how we work together under pressure.”

“RRH is incredibly blessed to have Stephanie Meeks as a disaster leader,” said Suver. “She has always put the community first and was indispensable during the earthquakes and other crises. 

“Steph has developed a national reputation for her expertise and continues to be asked to speak about disaster preparedness all over the country. I want to thank her and everyone who made this drill possible!”

Meeks said that community safety is a priority for RRH and many other agencies and volunteers in our community. 

“I think one of the reasons we have been able to build and maintain safe systems and responses can be credited in part to everyone who serves on the Indian Wells Valley Emergency Services Committee,” she said.

First responders, health care providers, HAM radio operators, and other volunteers meet on the third Thursday of each month (11:30 a.m. in the Kerr McGee Center) to discuss disaster preparedness and recovery. 

“This group is open to the community, and it’s a great way to find out how you can get involved in helping us be ready for any kind of emergency we might face in the future.”