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Drill puts decontamination training to test

What would happen if a pesticide was sprayed, accidentally, into an area where hundreds of people were gathered? Upstate caregivers are going through the paces of just such a scenario in a drill that begins at 12:30 p.m. today, Wednesday, Oct. 5.

A "code orange" drill will be announced throughout the hospital at the beginning of the exercise, which is expected to conclude by 3 p.m. Manikins will be used as patients, while Upstate nurses, clinical technicians and doctors will respond as they would to a real emergency.

Joe Tschopp RN, the hospital's assistant emergency coordinator, says DNV Healthcare, which accredits the hospital, requires two such "influx" drills per year, in which the hospital simulates receiving patients from a mass casualty incident. Upstate also maintains a decontamination team, which needs regular training exercises, so Tschopp is accomplishing two goals with this single drill.

If this were an actual emergency, the people contaminated by a pesticide would require swift administration of a couple of injectable medications, which the hospital keeps on hand. Exposure to pesticides is known as organophosphate poisoning, which causes symptoms like those for exposure to nerve gas.