Hospital flies through 'decontamination' test

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Equipment a Homeland Security measure

By kevin Hanson

The Courier-Herald

Crews scrambled to put on decontamination suits and get their treatment plans in order in front of Enumclaw Community Hospital last week, but the situation wasn't an emergency at all.

Rather, the scene involved 17 staffers from the hospital, along with a crew from Enumclaw Fire/District 28, all training for an event they hope never occurs.

The team was testing new equipment the hospital has on hand in the event of a "contamination" episode. That could include everything from a terrorist attack to a meth lab explosion, according to Richard Dickson, the hospital's emergency department manager.

The new equipment came the hospital's way as part of a nationwide program established following the terrorist attacks in September 2001. The Department of Homeland Security mandated certain medical facilities be equipped to handle incidents involving biohazards. In Enumclaw, that meant purchasing a mobile trailer containing a tent and all equipment necessary to treat patients exposed to toxic substances.

The plan is to get everyone decontaminated before they enter the hospital, thus reducing the risk to other patients.

Dickson said an initial concern was how quickly staff could get the tent up and operational. That was not a problem, however, as employees had everything rolling in about six minutes. "That was just amazing," Dickson said.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at

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