While tragedy struck Sunday morning with 50 people killed and 53 more injured in an Orlando nightclub shooting, Oviedo ER - an offshoot of the Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford - went into alert mode prepared for the worst.
When deadly events occur in this scale, hospitals and emergency rooms in a 50 to 100 miles radius go into alert. Even large hospitals can’t handle that many people, so the alert system is used to spread all the victims out to different facilities where they will be taken care of.
Karla Austin, medical technologist at Oviedo ER, explained that when an emergency room is on alert, all the employees are on call in case many victims start coming in.
“We have lab people. We have doctors on call. We have nurses on call. We have nursing supervisor on call. We have surgeons on call. Anybody you want, we got them,” she said.
Disasters and deadly attacks catch most people off guard, but part of the job of working at an emergency room is expecting the unexpected.
“Expect one at any time,” said Erin Sayess, registered nurse at Oviedo ER. “Expect something bad at any time.”
Oviedo ER treats events such as shootings the same way as any natural disaster. Both cause pain and suffering for everyone involved.
“It’s just like a hurricane, just like a natural disaster,” said Stephanie Tibbits, registered nurse at Oviedo ER. “You have teams that are required to come during the event, and then you have teams required to come after the event because of the mass casualties.”
The staff members of an emergency room are well prepared for events like the shooting. They go through training simulations to prepare them for the real thing.
“Just like any other facility, we have a fire drill. We have mass casualty drills,” Tibbits said.
When an alert is sent to other hospitals and emergency rooms in the radius, there are three levels, she said.
The first level is the closest to where the event happened, people who are not stable are sent to these facilities. The second level, which is farther out, is for people who are in critical condition but are breathing on their own. The third level is even farther away and is for people who are not injured in a life-threatening way.
Hospitals and emergency rooms are notified that they are in alert by their tracking boards. A tracking board is a screen with a list of medical facilities nearby. If a facility is in red, it means the building could possibly be at maximum capacity.
As of Sunday night, all neighboring facilities knew they were on alert with the possibility of gaining critical patients.
The professionals at Oviedo ER and other medical facilities faced a tough task Sunday when Orlando suffered from the deadliest shooting in American history. Oviedo ER hasn’t received any overflowing patients yet, but it is ready to help any victims that come.
Story originally published on June 13, 2016.