The morning of Nov. 13 seemed like the beginning of an ordinary, sunny Southern California day.
City of Hope employees walked into their offices, switched on their computers and checked voicemail. Pathologists examined tissue samples and nurses checked on inpatients at City of Hope Helford Clinical Research Hospital while outpatients trickled in for their medical appointments.
|Photo of Chaplain Terry Irish, right, comforts one of the injured as the mock patient is wheeled toward a treatment area. (Photo by Thomas Brown).|
By the time the magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck at 10 a.m. near the Salton Sea — about 150 miles east of Duarte — City of Hope was in the midst of another busy day. The seismic waves from the epicenter of the quake along the San Andreas Fault shot out at two miles per second. Within a minute and a half, the roiling, shifting jolt reached campus, and City of Hope was faced with the Big One.
Fortunately, it was the Great Southern California ShakeOut. The earthquake was fictitious, but emergency planners know the danger is real.
Staff, faculty and volunteers at City of Hope joined more than 5 million people and organizations across Southern California participating in the ShakeOut, the nation’s largest-ever earthquake drill. An emergency team assembled in the campus command center, and activities were staged in areas across campus to test the institution’s emergency response plan. All research buildings were evacuated, and staff assembled at Heritage Park while their buildings were assessed for damage.
“Within the drill scenario, City of Hope lost many buildings that collapsed or suffered serious structural damage,” said Chuck Pickering, director of safety and occupational health. The construction crane for the new Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for Cancer Immunotherapeutics and Tumor Immunology across from Helford Hospital collapsed and blocked street access to Helford, which survived the quake intact, “but the campus lost all power and, eventually, had to be completely evacuated,” he added.
|City of Hope administrators and key leaders gather status reports in the campus command center. (Photo by Thomas Brown)|
An emergency decontamination and triage area was set up on Tree Lane, the road south of Graff Medical and Scientific Library and Helford Hospital. A team of safety, medical and nursing staff ran through a mock decontamination and triage of people injured during the quake (played by volunteer nursing students). Within Helford Hospital, nursing staff from both day and evening shifts evacuated volunteers posing as patients by moving them down the hospital’s stairwells in specialized evacuation chairs and slides.
The earthquake drill allowed City of Hope to implement its emergency plans and identify areas that need to be addressed or improved.
“We were able to demonstrate during the drill that we could make it through a major earthquake and ensure the safety of our patients and staff to the best of our ability,” said Pickering. “These exercises help us identify issues to address and improvements to be made to our emergency response. Our next step is to develop a business continuity plan for City of Hope to ensure that we are able to recover from such a catastrophic event and reopen.”