BARSTOW - Tony Provenzano thinks that Barstow is ready for a major snowstorm.

Barstow Community Hospital recently received an emergency response trailer from the county stocked with tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment to deal with all kinds of disasters.

"With the trains and the semi-trucks going through, we'll be prepared for a chemical spill. We aren't as worried about responding to a tornado or the snow falling - but we could," he said.

The eight-foot-wide trailer is 22 feet long and can haul up to 10,000 pounds. It is solar powered, contains a remote security system and can be used as a temporary morgue, mobile command center or as needed, Provenzano said.

Among other items, the hospital received radios, an evacuation chair and an air filter system used to isolate contagious patients. Provenzano said the equipment will be used in the normal operations of the hospital so that staff is familiar with its use. The air filter system could be used to separate rooms under construction from the rest of the hospital, and the radios are useful for everyday communication, he said.

Provenzano said that the hospital previously received decontamination suits so that staff could treat patients who have been exposed to biological, chemical or radioactive hazards.
Susan Biewend, chairwoman of the emergency preparedness team at BCH, said she does not expect terrorists to attack Barstow but is happy to have the disaster equipment just in case.

"Since Sept. 11, I think there was a wake-up call for all health care facilities to be prepared for a mass number of casualties," she said.

Jerry Nevarez, of the Inland Counties Emergency Medical Agency, which administered the grant for the funds, said that the equipment belongs to the county, but will be stationed at the hospital in case of emergency.

"We wanted to give preparedness an all-hazards approach; we don't really know what the threat will be," Nevarez said.

He said that the grant funding came from a federal Health and Human Services agency initiative to equip hospitals in case of terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
"It was realized that hospitals hadn't been included in the original planning for disaster prevention," he said.

Nevarez said that each hospital was able to make a "wish-list" of needed items. He said BCH specifically requested an isolation unit to deal with the threat of an influenza pandemic or outbreak of contagious disease. The unit creates a negative air-flow in a room effectively blocking the airborne transmission of disease.

Hospital spokesman, John Rader, said staff will be trained in how to use the equipment in order to be ready to respond.

"We haven't had to respond to anything yet - and thankfully so - but we're prepared," he said.

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