Hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst

You never know when disaster may strike.  For example, just last month the entire town of Northwood was evacuated because of a fire at a chemical plant.

Situations like that one have prompted many businesses to put together a disaster plan.

Wednesday, a north Iowa nursing home getting as close to an actual disaster as possible with a mock drill.

“All staff, we have a code orange. Code orange we are advising everybody to shelter in place.”

It may not be a real emergency at the IOOF Home in Mason City, but staff and residents are treating it like it is.

For months they have been planning what would happen if a disaster occurred near or at the nursing home.

“We’ve revised our policies and updated our disaster supplies and it grew into let’s have a mock disaster drill,” says Administrator, Deb Haugen.

“Alright guys we have a crash on the North West side of the building.”

Here’s the scenario: a semi pulling a tanker crashed into a train carrying anhydrous ammonia right near the home and there seems to be a vapor cloud forming in the air.

The plan is to shelter in place.

“Remember stay calm. The number one goal here is our resident’s safety,” says Human Resources Coordinator, Mike Davis.

Davis is named the incident commander.

“Guide the staff in knowing what they’re supposed to be doing in an emergency situation. I will also be assisting throughout the event where I’m needed. I think overall I’m basically just a guide,” says Davis.

One by one possible scenarios unfold, from a possible contaminated person walking into the building, to resident injuries and panic attacks. Staff worked with Cerro Gordo County Emergency Management Coordinator Steve O’Neil as well as the Mason City Fire and Police.

Staff at IOOF Home say it’s important they have procedures in place and that was made apparent by the Northwood evacuation last month.

“It made it real. How long would it take us to evacuate the residents if we needed to, what if we just had them move within the building,” says Haugen.

Those kinds of mock emergency situations will help them be more than prepared in case one really happens.

“Let’s just keep the residents calm.”

After the drill, those involved met for a de-briefing of the mock emergency.

The home will also hold a staff meeting to talk about what they could change and what worked for them.

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