By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
Students were screaming as they ran off the busses.
Injuries were apparent. Hospital staff people were there to start the decontamination process.
Fortunately, a real explosion hadn’t occurred at the Wauneta-Palisade School’s science lab on Tuesday.
It was a decontamination training session for about 20 workers from hospitals in Imperial, Benkelman and Grant. Twelve Wauneta-Palisade biology and chemistry students volunteered to be the “victims.”
The main focus of the training was for hospital workers to practice the correct decontamination techniques necessary in the event of an accident in which people were decontaminated with chemicals.
Hospital workers are considered the “first receivers,” and in a real accident situation, the contaminated people they work with may or may not have been decontaminated initially in the field by the “first responders.”
As the screaming students arrived, yelling that they were burning, hospital staff quickly practiced cutting off their clothing, then sending them through a tent to be washed off outside the Chase County Community Hospital’s emergency entrance.
Lori Mendenhall, lab supervisor at Chase County Community Hospital, said in most chemical accidents, 80 to 90 percent of the contamination will be on the clothing.
“So getting the clothes off immediately is a big part of it,” she said.
In most cases, the clothing will be completely stripped away, but there is a new “bag and stash” technique that provides some privacy to the victim, Mendenhall said.
The person steps into a large garbage bag, and another with holes cut out for the head and arms is pulled over the head. At that point the person undresses.
When all the clothes are off, they step out of the bottom bag, then a third bag goes over the head again and the second bag that went over the head is cut away.
The “bag and stash” technique would be used when there are multiple people waiting to go through the decontamination process.
As the victims go through the tent, a mixture of water and baby soap is sprayed over them to remove any lingering chemical. If it’s a dry chemical accident, it’s just brushed off, Mendenhall said.
It’s vital that all the chemical is removed before victims enter the hospital, so as not to contaminate others inside.
Those being trained spent all day Monday in classroom instruction, prior to Tuesday’s hands-on training.
Five staff people affiliated with the Center for Preparedness Education were in Imperial to work with employees from Chase County Community Hospital, Dundy County Hospital and Perkins County Community Hospital in the instruction and training exercise.
Wauneta-Palisade students involved in the exercise were Shelby Hamilton, Aaron McGinnis, Joselyn Ramirez, Landen Lawless, Jenae Bischoff, Marcos Ramirez, Tori Adams, Katie Flaig, Rebecca Strand, Bethany Riener, Chris Bartels and Cody Steinke. High school science instructor Teresa Hayes accompanied the students.