Upstate discusses how it prepares for a mass influx of patients


The tragedy at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas sent thousands of people running from gunfire.

The mass shooting tested the limits of Las Vegas area hospitals, sending more than 500 injured people their way.

Being ready to take on a rush of patients is something hospitals across the country prepare for on a regular basis. This includes Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse.

“Once the call comes in from 911 — we are really going, full speed,” said Chris Dunham, Director of Emergency Management at Upstate.

Dunham says the impact of what happened in Las Vegas is felt here in Central New York.

“It was truly tragic,” Dunham said, “Initially when I hear of such things, I always try to think back of what we do here to prepare and make sure we’re up to snuff, which we are.”

The hospital runs emergency preparedness drills two or three times a year, according to Dunham.

To prepare for the “worst,” Dunham says the hospital will take on 30 percent more patients than what they expect on a busy day. Dunham says a “busy day” at Upstate can fluctuate in numbers.

The main goal is for Upstate to remain operational, no matter what.

“One of the things is being a level one trauma center is we can’t stop other folks not involved with an the event coming to us so we always anticipate that and we always try to exceed our capacity in a way we’re able to prepare for the worst,” Dunham explained. “We stress our systems in order to better enable us to respond to incidents like this.”

The hospital does drills to prepare for scenarios involving a large wave of patients from a mass shooting, a bus or plane crash, pandemic flu and exposure to hazardous materials.

“We try to remain vigilant for it because we don’t know when it’s going to happen,” Dunham said. “Certainly Syracuse has a lot of events and other risks.”

In the event of an actual mass casualty scenario, Dunham says calling the blood bank is one of the first things that would happen. He says it’s crucial for the team at Upstate to know what the blood bank has available to determine if an emergency blood drive is needed.

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