Local Agencies Participate in Statewide Emergency Exercise

State, local first responders and other entities team up for simulated hospital evacuation

By Justin Franz
A Boeing C-17 military plane takes off from Glacier Park International Airport during a state-wide emergency training exercise were state, local and federal first responders moved patients from a simulated earthquake disaster in the Great Falls area on March 6. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

Flathead County hospitals and first responders participated in a statewide emergency training exercise last week that prepared them for a major hospital evacuation if disaster were to ever strike the state.

The Montana Disaster and Emergency Services and the Montana National Guard organized the training, with cooperation from local entities, including the Flathead County Office of Emergency Services, Eagle Transit, Kalispell Regional Healthcare, North Valley Hospital, Glacier Park International Airport, and Evergreen Fire.

The exercise, held on March 6, simulated a response to an earthquake in the Yellowstone area that has resulted in a dam break near Great Falls. In the scenario, a hospital in Great Falls had to quickly be evacuated and patients moved to other hospitals. To do so, the Montana National Guard was enlisted to load patients into a massive Boeing C-17 and transport them to Kalispell and Missoula.

Once the plane arrived at Glacier Park International Airport, a number of patients were moved by bus and ambulance to North Valley Hospital and Kalispell Regional Medical Center. Once the patients were unloaded and safely on their way to the hospitals, the massive military plane lifted off bound for Missoula.

Rick Sacca, manager of the Flathead County Office of Emergency Services, said the exercise was a success and went off without a hitch.

“If a disaster like this were to ever occur in Montana, we want to make sure we’re ready and we’re not caught flat-footed,” he said.

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