Southern Maryland Hospital Center hosts disaster drill

Hundreds of workers in Prince George's County climbed into decontamination suits Tuesday to get schooled on tackling disasters.

Southern Maryland Hospital Center hosted the "chaos obstacle course."

The disaster drill drove home the importance of being proactive rather than reactive.

Staffers at the hospital learned how to handle both man-made and natural disasters.

Nursing Manager Anne Johnson and her colleagues suited up for the first time in full decontamination gear.

"It gives you a certain knowledge that if something would happen, you have the right tools," Johnson said.

Across the room, lessons on detecting radiation were held. Participants moved bodies with blankets, diagnosed diseases and used chair lifts.

Dr. Eric McDonald, the chief of the Emergency Department, said, "We're getting people from all different parts of the hospital - nurses, physicians, people that work in housekeeping, people that work everywhere - because in a real disaster you never know who is going to have to respond."

To drive home the message, video of tornado-ravaged towns played in the background - a sobering reminder of how easily Mother Nature can shake up safety.

"We plan for those kinds of events on a regular basis. We practice and drill for them so that if it does happen in real life, it's not as much of a disaster as it was last time," said Emergency Department Clinical Leader Casey Scott.

The hospital plans on running through the disaster drills annually.

Tuesday's drills were conducted in honor of "National Disaster Preparedness Month."