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Simulating emergency scenarios to sharpen our response

Last Modified: September 12, 2023

Community, Safety & Prevention


In late August, Parkview Health conducted multiple full-scale disaster exercises across the health system, with the support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The full-scale exercises were designed to validate Parkview’s emergency response plans, policies and procedures by simulating an emergency scenario in which each hospital receives a large number of patients in a short period of time.

Widespread response

The disaster exercises were conducted over a three-day period, with multiple locations participating each day. Facilities involved in the drills included:

Parkview DeKalb Hospital

Parkview Noble Hospital

Parkview Whitley Hospital

Parkview Huntington Hospital

Parkview Wabash Hospital

Parkview Warsaw

Parkview Hospital Randallia

Parkview Regional Medical Center

The simulated events for Parkview’s exercises were created based on a severe summer storm that impacted northeast Indiana in 2022. The exercises utilized approximately 400 role players and other volunteers, and were planned in conjunction with multiple community partners and local, state and federal agencies.

In the 2023 exercises, Parkview also simulated a reunification center, headed by Patrick Riecke, director, Dignity and Spiritual Care, that ensured families and friends would get reconnected quickly and comfortably in the event of a mass casualty event.

disaster drill

“Parkview strives to serve each of our communities with excellent care for every person, every day – even in the worst of times,” said Mike Eckroth, corporate director of emergency management and business continuity, Parkview Health. “These full-scale exercises will be the largest and most in-depth we’ve ever conducted, coming as close to real-life as you can possibly get in a drill or simulation. We want to demonstrate the importance of emergency preparedness not only for our facilities, but also for our communities.”

During the exercises, for the safety of hospital co-workers, role players and other volunteers, the general public was not invited to attend or observe any of the full-scale exercises. While some activity was visible to patients and visitors, organizers were careful to ensure that the exercises did not interfere with any real-life care.

FEMA support

Parkview was one of 116 locations nationwide selected to receive support from FEMA’s National Exercise Division (NED) in 2023, and one of only five locations in Region 5, which includes Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

In the months leading up to the simulations, representatives from NED shared their subject matter expertise to assist Parkview with exercise planning and development. The team also helped facilitate and evaluate each exercise.

“Parkview’s Emergency Management program is key to our ability to care for the community, most recently playing a pivotal role in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Donna Van Vlerah, senior vice president, Support Division, Parkview Health. “However, we want to be prepared for all types of emergencies, and training is an essential element. We are grateful for FEMA’s support with these exercises to help ensure Parkview is following best practices and our teams can handle any potential situation.”

Following the events, the NED team will help Parkview complete an after-action review and improvement plan. The documentation will go into the FEMA library to aid in the development of national best practices for emergency management.

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