National Guard and hospital team up for disaster preparedness exercise

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We’re at the beginning of hurricane season, and thousands are doing more than just stocking up on water and canned food — they’re preparing to save lives.

The Hawaii National Guard is teaming up with city and county officials for an elaborate eight-day emergency drill that took two years to plan.

On Saturday, the Guard underwent a mass casualty and decontamination exercise at Kalaeloa that was held simultaneously with the staff of the Queen’s Medical Center-West Oahu. The drill simulated a chemical explosion and collapsed buildings, which was caused by a hurricane. Those who portrayed victims had a variety of injuries, like broken bones or suffering from ammonia spills.

“We wouldn’t take the lead in a disaster,” said Lt. Col. James Barros. “We would support the county and first responders. So we’re making that connection now, letting them know what kind of capabilities we have so they know what they can ask for.”

Guard service members sifted through a pile of rubble, searching for “victims.” Once they’re extracted from the rubble, they’re transported to an area, like a hospital, for decontamination.

“When it does happen, we have to prepared for everything, both how we feel and to provide great care for our patients with injuries,” said Queen’s medical director Dr. Ronald Kuroda.

While they’re trained military members, the Guard is also part of the community with as much to lose as anyone else.

“When something happens, I’m going to pull those soldiers to the unit,” said Barros. “The families need to be prepared. The soldiers got to know their families are taken care of. There are plans in place and they know the plan.”

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