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Being prepared

DEMOPOLIS &8212; A crew of local health and emergency officials had an exercise in teamwork Tuesday as they were trained on how to set-up, operate and take down one of seven mobile medical stations owned by the state.

According to Kent Speigner, with the Alabama Department of Public Health, the medical station is equipped to handle up to 50 bed-ridden patients and can feasibly help several hundred additional patients in the event of a major emergency.

Consisting mainly of six inflatable tents with adjoining passages, the station can be sent out to an emergency site and run self sufficiently for up to a week. Crafted by EMS Innovations out of Trussville, the stations were first purchased by the Alabama Department of Public Health in 2004. Four of the stations are housed in Montgomery, while the remaining stations are housed in Mobile, Birmingham and Montgomery.

Although they have had only one incident where the station was deployed &8212; a tornado in Prattville a few months ago &8212; the stations have been distributed all over the country.

According to Robbie Dodd and J.D. Keith, who work with EMS Innovations, the most notable emergency where a similar model was used was in Americus, Ga. where Sumter Regional Hospital was destroyed by a tornado. Within hours, the unit was up and running to assist disaster victims.

Even in other circumstances, such as pandemic flu, the station is equipped to handle an influx of sick people. Speigner said potential pandemic flu patients could be isolated in the station for treatment in the event of a widespread outbreak.

Diana Fendley, emergency preparedness coordinator for our area, said the medical station is a great resource to aid in disaster situations.

Marengo county is just one of the counties included in public health area 7, all of which are classified as rural areas.

Fendley explained the units are not designed to replace hospitals in the event of an emergency, but rather to assist in patient overflow.

After its stop in Marengo County, the mobile medical station is headed to Talladega later this week for more training.