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Missoula’s St. Patrick Hospital Conducts ‘Big Sky Thunder’ Terrorist Emergency Exercise [AUDIO]

St. Patrick Hospital
Photo courtesy of St. Patrick Hospital

On the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American soil, Missoula’s St. Patrick Hospital conducted an emergency preparedness exercise called ‘Big Sky Thunder,’ in which a mock terrorist attack occurred in Missoula.

LeeAnn Vreeland is Director of Safety and Emergency Management at St. Patrick Hospital. She described the purpose of the ‘Big Sky Thunder’ exercise.

“Big Sky Thunder is focused on a terrorist attack in Missoula, and how the hospital and local agencies would respond and collaborate together to respond,” Vreeland said. “This is the capstone event of a three-year process. We did an assessment of the security measures available to us at our hospital, and by happenstance, there’s a program called the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, and it’s sponsored by the National Nuclear Security Administration. Their purpose is to secure any type of radiological material that may pose a threat in the form of a weapon of mass destruction.”

Vreeland said Missoula and St. Patrick Hospital were specifically chosen to conduct the three-year training exercise.

“We had 110 people representing 38 agencies here at the hospital today,” Vreeland said. “Some came from as far away as Florida and South Carolina, and they came to Missoula, Montana to participate in our program here at St. Patrick Hospital.”

Vreeland explained why there were no lights, sirens or emergency vehicles racing through Missoula during the exercise.

“This was what is known as a ‘tabletop exercise,’ where we all sat in a room and talked through the scenario, and what their response would be, and how they would integrate and communicate with Missoula agencies,” Vreeland said. “This is the first time there’s ever been an exercise like this in Montana, first time ever in the northwest, the first time for a Providence hospital, and also the first time it has ever been conducted in a rural hospital.”

Vreeland said the various agencies will now take what they have learned and prepare for the next exercise.

“We meet regularly as a group, and we improve the emergency processes of our county and our city, so we’ll start from there,” Vreeland said. “We’ll have other opportunities next year that might focus on emergencies centered around the airport, the university or other areas in our community. It just goes on and on because we’re always trying to improve our processes, and this is one of the ways we do it.”

LeeAnn Vreeland, Director of safety and Emergency Management at St. Patrick Hospital:

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