SOMERVILLE, NJ – Don’t be alarmed. This is only a drill.
Residents living in the vicinity of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital/Somerset will notice an increase in the number of ambulances Saturday rolling up and down Rehill Avenue and Post Street, which parallel the hospital's west and east sides.
The rigs are participating in a mass casualty practice drill that will test the skills of the hospital’s recent class of EMT graduates, according to Steve Weinman, coordinator of the borough’s Office of Emergency Management and president of the Somerville Rescue Squad.
“This drill will also be testing the Mass Casualty Incident Plan for Robert Wood Johnson,” Weinman said.
Helping out will be rescue squads and crews from Somerville, Hillsborough, Bradley Gardens and Green Knoll.
“This drill is intended to give them a real world look at what they are getting in to,” Weinman said.
There will be no sirens and no flashing lights, just a steady procession of rescue vehicles delivering “injured” patients to the hospital’s Steeplechase Center at the corner of East Main Street and Rehill Avenue.
A notice from the OEM was posted on the borough's website yesterday:
"The Somerville Rescue Squad along with RWJUH and the Somerville Office of Emergency Management will be holding a mass casualty exercise from noon-4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13th at the Steeplechase Cancer Center located on the corner of East Main and Rehill.
"During this time you may notice an increased amount of ambulance traffic around the hospital. This is only a drill and there is no need to be concerned.
"If you have any questions contact the Somerville Office of Emergency Management at 908-725-0331."
The drill should not interfere with the hospital’s regular operations or those who are visiting patients; the outpatient cancer care center is separate from the main hospital, and usually not as busy on a Saturday afternoon, according to Weinman.
The drill will simulate a shooting scenario with mass casualties.
A triage center will be set up in the lobby of the building, where several EMT students will put themselves to the test under the supervision of more experienced EMTs and rescue personnel. Some of the activity may spill out into the parking lot.
The “victims” are volunteers, mostly family related to the EMT students and relatives of hospital staff, according to Weinman.
“As the scenario unfolds, the students will begin to recognize the scope of the incident and start to request the appropriate resources,” Weinman explained. They will prioritize treatment for each victim depending on the severity of their “wounds,” he explained.
Some of the “victims” will bear simulated "wounds," but most will have signs attached to their clothes which will identify the nature and location of their "wounds," according to Weinman.
“Somerville being the epicenter of so much that goes on is why we chose to do this drill,” Weinman said. “I’m a big believer that the more we practice, the more prepared we are for something like this if it were to happen,” he said.