"Operation Red Dragon" Disaster Drills Today
By Gene Mueller, Diane Pathieu and Jay Sorgi
RACINE - Don't be alarmed if you see a lot of activity at area hospitals.
There's a huge training exercise going on throughout the day across Southeastern Wisconsin.
16 local hospitals and 3,000 U.S. Army soldiers are part of Operation "Red Dragon," a mock drill being staged throughout Southeastern Wisconsin on Wednesday.
It starts with a pretend major explosion, such as a dirty bomb going off at a local mall.
Victims of the chemical explosion are rushed to area hospitals.
15 of them arrive at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare All Saints in Racine.
They are first stripped down, evaluated and rushed into a red trailer, where they are sprayed down.
The victims then connect with medical staff and enter the hospital for treatment.
"I think they did really well they provided us with instructions and they had a handle on it," said U.S. Army Reserve Sergeant Lisa Rauch, who played one of the victims.
The whole purpose of these drills is to coordinate hospital staff and military, and figure out how to care for patients during a major disaster while keeping the hospitals up and running.
All Saints Hospital volunteered for this, and staffers there are glad they did.
"It's not very often that we're able to do this in a real life scenario, so its good pratice for us as well," said All Saints EMS Coordinator Dave Piccolo.
The drill is the largest full-scale exercise of its kind in the country this year.
If you're heading to an area hospital during that time, chances are you'll see some of these training activities happening, so there is no reason to be alarmed.
"I don't want the community to view us as a threat, or that we're there to take over anything," said Lt. Col. Leslie Dillard, chief of Homeland Defense for the 335th Signal Command/U.S. Army Reserves based in Georgia. "We're there to train with their personnel in the community, and help make us better as responders, just in case something happens."
Among those involved: Froedert, Childrens, Columbia St. Mary's, Wheaton Franciscan All Saints Racine, Oconomowoc, Waukesha, Aurora Sinai, St. Luke's, West Allis Memorial, Elmbrook, Wisconsin Heart Hospital and Aurora Kenosha.
You may notice some street closures around the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center, but hospital operations will be going on as usual.