NEWS 8 Exclusive: Behind the scenes of a Waterbury emergency drill at St. Mary’s Hospital

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — It looked like an emergency outside St. Mary’s Hospital Wednesday.

It wasn’t.

Emergency Department workers and Trinity Health of New England ambulance crews teamed up with Waterbury firefighters for a drill — how to work together in a mass emergency situation should the need ever arise.

“They (the drills) keep us in a continued state of readiness because we never know what the emergency will be and on what day it will occur,” said Kim Kalajainen, VP of Operations for St. Mary’s Hospital.

The drill Wednesday was to treat several people who’ve been exposed to a mock harsh chemical. The crews had to work together to figure out the best way to protect their patients, while also taking the necessary precautions to protect each other. For the firefighters it meant putting on special protective gear that made them look like they were about to walk on the moon.

“Because we do no good to the victims who may or may not be inside the building if we’re not protected and not able to do our job,” said Rick Hart, Deputy Fire Chief of the Waterbury Fire Department.

During what could be a chaotic situation, crews have to learn to keep their cool. For St. Mary’s Emergency nurses, they had to run over and check the firefighters’ vitals before those crews were able to head to the decontamination station.

“Our main concern is for the patient, of course,” said Kent Burgwardt, Associate Director of St. Mary’s Hospital Emergency Department. “But in these kind of contaminations there can e cross contamination to our staff — our nursing and medical staff. So, it’s imperative we keep them safe also.”

Trinity Health of New England conducts these drills twice a year. But, the pandemic took precious time away.

“It took up the lion share of everything that we were doing and all of our resources,” Kalajainen said. “So, as we start to come out of this pandemic and get back to what our new normal is, it’s making us realize we need to brush up and sharpen up on all our skills for all the other emergencies that are out there.”

That’s why they’re doing this not only at St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, but also at some other Trinity Health of New England hospitals this week — including in Hartford and Stafford Springs.

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