ThedaCare Workers Train to Deal with Disaster

Wisconsin Healthcare Providers Attend National Training Program

Imagine a small group of domestic terrorists attacking local infrastructure, leading to injuries and death, a disruption of daily life and instilling fear among area residents. It’s a scenario most people don’t want to think about, but 134 personnel from 42 healthcare and hospital facilities across Wisconsin recently dealt with that scenario during an intensive, week-long training program at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Alabama.

The center provides emergency responders with the skills they need to respond to and manage incidents and is fully funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency so participants can attend at no cost to their employers.

ThedaCare sent 31 employees, including personnel from all five of its hospitals and EMS, to participate in the event where attendees received extensive training related to their professions before coming together for the simulated terrorist full scale exercise. In addition to ThedaCare, other Northeast Wisconsin health care attendees were from Affinity, Aurora, Berlin Memorial Hospital and Wildrose Hospital. Many local fire and EMS and Outagamie County emergency management also participated.

“Participating in an event like this is so valuable. It brings all of our community partners together to a state-of-the-art training facility where we can study, train, and go through these exercises,” said Tracey Froiland, emergency management coordinator for ThedaCare and the Region 6 manager for the Wisconsin Hospital Emergency Preparedness Program. “Our community benefits from our involvement since we are gaining skills that will help us as we deal with incidents that very likely could occur in our communities.”

For the Wisconsin’s group’s scenario, multiple attacks on a subway system required officials to triage and treat more than 300 patients, who were portrayed by role players and manikins. Participants engaged in patient triage, patient tracking, hazmat, caring for patients, and incident command activities during the mock disaster.

Froiland said the training is invaluable since it’s very costly for individual communities to put on their own mock disasters. “We often don’t have the opportunity train along the entire continuum of a disaster and we received that chance in Anniston. We often train parts of it at time, but don’t have the resources to do an entire event from start to finish,” she said. “Training is key. Disasters can be anything from like what we saw at the Boston Marathon to a natural disaster like the tornados in Oklahoma.”

A unique part of the week is that there were three courses offered featuring only Wisconsin healthcare partners – which is a first for the center. “We did a healthcare leadership course that focused on using the incident command structure while keeping the hospital operational during a big event,” Froiland said. “The other two courses donned Hazmat equipment in 90 degree weather while triaging and treating patients.”

Froiland organized the trip for the Wisconsin attendees. “Usually, groups go separately but I contacted Center of Domestic Preparedness and asked if we could bring people from throughout Wisconsin to practice all together,” she said. “We’ve been planning this for a year and the training was incredible.”

With FEMA’s support, round-trip air and ground transportation, lodging, and meals are provided at no cost to responders or their agency or jurisdiction.

For more information about training or FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness, visit or

ThedaCare™ is a community health system consisting of five hospitals: Appleton Medical Center, Theda Clark Medical Center, New London Family Medical Center, Shawano Medical Center, and Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca. ThedaCare also includes ThedaCare Physicians, ThedaCare Behavioral Health, ThedaCare At Work, and ThedaCare at Home. ThedaCare is the largest employer in Northeast Wisconsin with more than 6,175 employees. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.