West Hills Hospital & Medical Center is hosting a mass casualty decontamination and surge capacity disaster drill on May 2 to test the ability of area hospitals to respond to a mass emergency.

The participating facilities are all part of the same Disaster Resource Center Group, an initiative of LA County EMS to help hospitals in the same area work together and better prepare for disasters.

Spearheading the effort is Henry Mayo Newhall Medical Center. Besides Henry Mayo and West Hills, participants include Kaiser Panorama City, Kaiser Woodland Hills, Northridge Hospital Medical Center, Antelope Valley Hospital, Palmdale Regional Medical Center, Mission Community Hospital, Valley Presbyterian Hospital, LA County Olive View/UCLA Medical Center, Pacifica Hospital, Northeast Valley Health Corporation and Valley Community Clinic.

The disaster drill will test two of the hospitals' capabilities: surge capacity, or the ability to change operations to handle a large number of patients when a disaster strikes and mass casualty decontamination, which involves treating a large number of patients exposed to various contaminants.

The hospitals will rehearse how to respond to a catastrophe involving the collision of a diesel tanker with a commuter bus in West Hills, in which patients are drenched in diesel fuel. Representatives will practice how to operate a mass casualty decontamination shower and how to set up a hospital-grade treatment shelter.

Judy Temes