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Context of 'September 8, 2001: Hospital near Washington Holds an Exercise Based around a Chemical Terrorist Attack'

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Inova Fairfax Hospital.Inova Fairfax Hospital. [Source: Inova Health System Media Services]A training exercise is held at Inova Fairfax Hospital, just outside Washington, DC, which is based around the scenario of a terrorist attack with a chemical weapon. [Washington Post, 11/8/2001; American Hospital Association, 2002, pp. 27 pdf file; New York Times, 1/6/2002] The large-scale exercise involves local, state, and federal participants, although which particular agencies take part is unstated. It centers around a simulated attack on the Fairfax County courthouse with sarin, a deadly nerve gas. [American Hospital Association, 2002, pp. 27 pdf file] The simulated scenario is intended to overwhelm the medical system with hundreds or thousands of victims. Dr. Thomas Mayer, chair of Inova Fairfax Hospital’s emergency department, will later explain: “You say, ‘Here’s the scenario: We have 160 victims. How do we triage them? Where will they go? How will they be handled?’” [New York Times, 1/6/2002]
Model Tested in the Exercise Works Well - The “command hospital communication concept” is tested in the exercise. This model involves the “command hospital”—Inova Fairfax, which has the appropriate communications system—serving as a link to other hospitals in the area and being responsible for ensuring that patients with specific needs are sent to the appropriate medical facilities. The exercise is reportedly a success. “Everything worked fine,” Patrick Walters, a senior vice president at Inova Health System, will say. [American Hospital Association, 2002, pp. 27 pdf file; Condon-Rall, 2011, pp. 186]
Hospital Responds to the Pentagon Attack on September 11 - Inova Fairfax Hospital, the largest hospital in Northern Virginia, is located 10 miles from the Pentagon. [ACP Hospitalist, 1/2007; Washington Post, 10/10/2010] On September 11, it will activate its disaster plan following reports of the attacks on the World Trade Center (see (Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. B3 pdf file] After being informed about the attack on the Pentagon, hospital officials will quickly clear over 200 beds for the anticipated casualties. [Washington Post, 11/8/2001] However, although the regional plan process works well when tested in today’s exercise, on September 11 it “didn’t work at all,” Walters will say. [American Hospital Association, 2002, pp. 28 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Thomas Mayer, Patrick Walters, Inova Fairfax Hospital

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Dr. Thomas Mayer.Dr. Thomas Mayer. [Source: Studer Group]The air traffic control tower at Washington Dulles International Airport notifies Inova Fairfax Hospital—the largest hospital in Northern Virginia—that a hijacked aircraft is missing. It passes this information to Dr. Thomas Mayer, the chair of the hospital’s emergency department. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 117] At around 9:32 a.m., air traffic controllers at the FAA’s terminal control facility at Dulles had “observed a primary radar target,” later determined to be Flight 77, “tracking eastbound at a high rate of speed” (see 9:32 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 25; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 33] Mayer will later recall: “We knew that something was headed towards the national capital area. We didn’t know where. But we knew we needed to get ready. So we immediately went on disaster planning mode.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 117] The Arlington County After-Action Report indicates the hospital in fact initiates its disaster plan earlier than Mayer suggests, stating: “Inova Fairfax Hospital activated its disaster plan following reports of the World Trade Center attacks. Subsequently, the hospital received emergency notification of a missing airliner from the Washington Dulles International Airport tower.” The hospital cancels elective surgeries until 6:00 p.m. and makes eight trauma teams available within 20 minutes. The regular emergency room is relocated to an alternate site, and nearly 100 nurses and doctors prepare to respond in the event of an attack in the Washington Metropolitan Area. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. B3 pdf file] Due to the strategic importance of the region, Inova Fairfax and the other hospitals and clinics in the Washington area are particularly well prepared for mass casualty incidents. They regularly conduct drills to practice for chemical or biological attacks. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 115]

Entity Tags: Thomas Mayer, Inova Fairfax Hospital

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A Maryland State Police helicopter.A Maryland State Police helicopter. [Source: Maryland State Police]Sergeant Ronald Galey, the pilot of a US Park Police helicopter responding to the attack on the Pentagon, asks the Maryland State Police to send medical evacuation (medevac) helicopters to help out at the crash scene, but is told, “No, we can’t respond,” apparently because the airspace has been shut down. [Rotor and Wing, 11/2001; US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001] Galey is flying one of the two Park Police Aviation Unit helicopters that arrived at the Pentagon within minutes of the attack there (see Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). His helicopter has been circling overhead while the other Park Police helicopter landed to conduct medical evacuations. They are currently the only helicopters to have arrived on the scene.
Pilot Wants More Helicopters to Assist at the Pentagon - Realizing that his helicopter cannot provide its current command and control function and conduct medical evacuations at the same time, Galey requests assistance from other departments that have helicopters equipped to transport injured patients. The first department he calls is the Maryland State Police. [US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 20-22 pdf file] The Maryland State Police Aviation Command owns 12 helicopters and most of its work involves medical transport, with its helicopters carrying injured patients to hospital. [Maryland State Police, 2/16/2003; Baltimore Sun, 3/7/2006] According to Galey, the unit has “the most resources for aircraft, medevac aircraft, that we knew were manned and ready to go.” However, Galey will later recall, in response to his request, “they came back and said, ‘No, we can’t respond.’”
Maryland Police Think They Cannot Launch Helicopters - When Galey is told that the unit cannot respond, he and the rest of his crew are “very shocked,” and, Galey will say, “[T]hat’s when we were starting to suspect there was something more to it.” According to later accounts, the unit cannot respond because the airspace has been shut down. [Rotor and Wing, 11/2001; US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001] (The FAA has issued a nationwide “ground stop” that prevents any aircraft from taking off (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and has also ordered that all airborne aircraft must land at the nearest airport (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 25, 29] Galey is currently unaware that the airspace has been shut down. However, the Maryland State Police helicopters should be able to respond all the same, because NORAD has told him, “The aircraft that you’re calling in, we’re going to allow to come in” (see (Shortly After 9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to Galey, the Maryland State Police “just didn’t know [that] if we requested them they could come.”
Other Departments Send Helicopters - Galey then contacts MedStar at the Washington Hospital Center and AirCare at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia. Each of them dispatches helicopters to the Pentagon. Galey will recall that these two departments “hadn’t gotten the word that the airspace was shut down, and since I’m the one who requested the aircraft and informed NORAD, NORAD allowed them to come in.” [Rotor and Wing, 11/2001; US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001] It is unclear exactly when Galey contacts the different departments. But according to the Arlington County After-Action Report, the helicopter that MedStar launches arrives at the Pentagon at around 10:18 a.m. Inova Fairfax Hospital launches one helicopter at “approximately 10:00 a.m.” and then sends a second helicopter to the Pentagon at around 10:40 a.m. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-45 pdf file]

Entity Tags: MedStar Health, Ronald A. Galey, Maryland State Police, United States Park Police, AirCare

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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