COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Central Ohio hospitals are coordinated by a central point of contact when tragedy hits.

Whether it was the Fireball amusement ride a the Ohio State Fair in 2017 or incidents similar to the Pennsylvania fatal accident that happened on New Year’s weekend where five people died and 53 were taken to area hospitals.

“We coordinate the healthcare response and what we do by knowing where the open beds are and how busy the ER [emergency room] already is, helps EMS where to take the patients,” explained Jodi Keller, a registered nurse who is the associate Director of Healthcare System Emergency Preparedness for Central Ohio Trauma System. “We want the patient to end up at the most appropriate place for them.”

Part of the mass casualty plan here in the Columbus area is organized by COTS. This group was formed in 1995 to make sure that hospitals would be on the same page at the same time when bad things happen. COTS represents 41 counties in central and southeast Ohio.

The group offers RTAS which is short for Real-Time Activity Status. The website describes this as ” a web-based program used by all Franklin County emergency departments and three contiguous county hospitals to notify EMS when their emergency departments are overly busy or diverting EMS patients to less busy emergency departments.”

Basically, this benefits patients, first responders, and medical providing facilities with a cohesive organization of care. If a hospital is too full or busy, the EMS will deliver patients to another location so that the patient can receive the appropriate care in a timely manner. This also benefits patients, the workers at hospitals that may be overwhelmed with a mass casualty incident. This system offers them to focus on the patients already assigned to them. There are currently 26 hospitals signed up for this system.

“It could be that mass casualty bus crash, the next bad flu season where we are very tight on beds and we have to figure out how we’re going to multiply beds and surge more patients into our hospitals, it could be an extended power outage,” explained Keller. “We just have to be prepared for whatever the next bad thing is.”

Right now COTS is looking at the last five real-world mass casualty events that have happened in the United States and has best practices and lessons learned from those.

“We thought patients would arrive at the hospital neatly packaged with their IVs and their dressings on and the worst patients would arrive first and the walking wounded would arrive last,” explained Keller in a matter of fact manner. “That’s not how it’s happening. The patients are self transporting to the hospital. In Las Vegas 80 percent of those patients self transported to the hospital. The other 20% was left on the scene, most of them were dead and there weren’t any patients for EMS to take care of.”

So COTS is taking the information and breaking it down bullet point by bullet point and reevaluating the plans on a county by county basis.

Government, Hospitals, Schools constantly prepare

One group, however, cannot do this by itself. From schools to governments, to students, to professionals, all play a role in practicing and training for what to do when something bad happens. In November, Franklin County Commissioners approved a $350,000 contract to buy trauma kits for mass shootings and other violence. In April of last year, Ohio Health prepared students to handle mass casualties.

Ohio State University prepares students, faculty, and staff with its Situation Room, where actors play roles for medical students and pros to figure out what to do when tragedy strikes them on campus.

Here are some important links and downloads for disaster preparedness