Iowa's Center for Disabilities and Development Joins Mass Casualty Preparedness Event

July 25, 2023

In June, University of Iowa Health Care was joined by the Iowa City VA Hospital and Mercy Iowa City in a simulated mass casualty incident. Iowa’s Center for Disabilities and Development (CDD), which is based at UI Health Care, participated in the event as the Family Reunification Center, the primary location for families and patients to be reunited. CDD is home to Iowa’s tertiary-level evaluation and diagnostic clinics, Iowa’s UCEDD and LEND program, and the Hawk-IDDRC.

On the day of the preparedness event, CDD staff received an email notifying them of simulated accidents in Oxford and Coralville, Iowa, involving RAGBRAI bicyclists. The accidents included children. While this was just a drill, the simulation gave teams at each of the three hospitals the opportunity to practice and be prepared should a real event occur when thousands of RAGBRAI cyclists head to Iowa in late July for the annual cross-state bike ride.

“When a mass casualty incident occurs, it is CDD’s responsibility as the Reunification Center to reunite children and adults with disabilities with their families or guardians, after they’re discharged from the emergency department or from the Children’s Hospital,” said Michael Baca, lead administrator at CDD. Baca serves as CDD’s connection to UI Health Care Incident Command for the Reunification Center.

Karen Hammar, director of CDD’s Rehabilitation Services and Operations, led the simulation, supervising members of CDD’s Clinical, Operations and UCEDD staffs. Staff were assigned to teams for Labor Pool and Logistics, Operations, Dependent Care, and Psychological First Aid. Director of Nursing at CDD, Ellen Eulberg, and her team provided dependent care for children and adults with disabilities, who were represented by paper cutouts, bearing photos and personal information. CDD psychologists Jillian Reiher and Jacqueline Klossing brought their expertise to the Psychological First Aid and Crisis team, along with lots of CDD’s Prescription to Play toys from CDD’s Disability Resource Library. Karen Hammar and Ellen Eulberg serve with Michael Baca on the UI Health Care Pediatric Disaster Task Force.

One of the most important parts of the simulated event took place when the drill was over. Participants stayed for a debriefing session, identifying problems and gaps, and suggesting solutions and ways to improve the effectiveness should an actual event take place—knock on wood!

If you’d like to learn more about CDD’s participation in disaster preparedness at UI Health Care, get in touch with Joan Lewis, chief of Labor Pool and Logistics for the Reunification Center, at [email protected].