2024 DNC

Chicago hospital holding readiness drills ahead of Democratic National Convention

The hospital says it must be prepared for a mass-casualty incident due to its proximity to the United Center, where the DNC will be held in August

NBC Universal, Inc.

With the Democratic National Convention coming to the United Center in Chicago in August, one of the closest hospitals to the arena held an emergency drill Thursday to ensure its staff is prepared for a mass casualty incident.

“When these things occur, I think it’s important to prepare for any type of mass casualty incident, whether it’s an active shooter or any type of large scale event, like riot control agents. We have to protect our teams. We have to protect our patients and RUSH has an important part in protecting our community,” said Dr. Nick Cozzi, an emergency physician who led the drill.

He started the alert, called a “Code Triage” which resulted in the lobby of the main hospital being turned into a triage area. Hospital beds and supply carts were rolled in to prepare for an influx of patients.

“Code Triage is like RUSH’s way of saying there’s a mass casualty incident with a large number of patients we’re expected to handle and take care of,” said Cozzi.

The drill called for nursing students to pose as victims who had been injured in an explosion at the United Center.

“When mass casualty incidents occur 80%, 8-of-10 patients actually come not from EMS, but from private vehicles. We’re preparing for not EMS bringing them, but patients being put in cars, trucks, running across the 290 Expressway on the bridges. We have to prepare for everything,” said Cozzi.

More than a dozen nursing student volunteers pretended to have a variety of injuries, from twisted ankles to more serious internal bleeding. RUSH staff members assessed each injury and assigned a color-coded tag system, determining who needed to be treated immediately and who could wait to be seen.

To prepare for a chemical or gas attack, RUSH recently reconfigured one of its ambulance bays to also become a hazmat decontamination unit. Curtains can come down at a push of a button, hoses are at the ready at each station and ceiling heaters turn on with the flip of a switch to help keep victims warm after decontamination.

“If anything were to happen, we turn the key and in less than five minutes, we have this all already set up,” said Stephany Nunez Cruz, a clinical pharmacy specialist at RUSH.

“We have five lanes to be able to do this in a safe, efficient manner,” added Cozzi.

After the “Code Triage” drill ended, RUSH staff met for about 25 minutes, discussing the process and troubleshooting any issues.

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