Drill helps hospitals prepare for tornados, other disasters

LA CROSSE, Wis. — When severe weather strikes, it’s especially important that hospitals are prepared to handle the worst.

Last week the Wisconsin National Guard hosted a disaster response exercise at Mayo Clinic Health System and Gundersen Lutheran called Operation Vigilant Guard.

They used a scenario where a major earthquake hit Arkansas, sending Mississippi floodwaters surging towards La Crosse.

The hospitals then tested how well they could handle that situation.

Officials say disaster response exercises proved to be beneficial when a tornado hit Joplin, Missouri this week.

“Why Joplin did not have the fatalities that they could have is because they practice, and we want to be in the same position when the worst case scenario happens in La Crosse,” says Tom Wright, Gundersen’s emergency manager.

Area hospitals are required to have two practice drills a year, but often do more than that just so they’re prepared to handle anything.