Although warned of the test, hospital officials rushed to prepare. They rolled out a triage tent, contamination chamber, and electric generators as if it was a real emergency.
"This event was planned by IMTT and we were asked to participate," said BMC spokesperson Bill Carlos.
This exercise came a few weeks prior to the unveiling of a new master response plan for Northern New Jersey that coordinates state response to large scale emergencies.
IMTT is one of 25 facilities in Northern New Jersey the state office of Homeland Security considers vulnerable, and the plan would provide a layer of response in case of a large disaster.
For smaller disasters, such as the pretend fire IMTT staged, local agencies such as the Bayonne Police Department, McCabe Ambulance, IMTT, the Fire Department and the staff at BMC must be prepared.
"The exercise went well," Carlos said.
IMTT employees were transported by McCabe Ambulance to the BMC grounds as if they were really burn victims, many covered with bandages, while the more serious cases were depicted by practice mannequins.
The call came into the hospital shortly after 9 a.m., at which time the hospital staff began to prepare the grounds for the arrivals. They set up a large tent and within minutes it was fully supplied with oxygen, bandages, and assortment of equipment geared to treat those injuries a fire might produce.
In the case of a chemical contamination, the hospital would set up a decontamination tent to wash off patients before they are treated in the triage tent.
Even though IMTT is a large storage facility for chemicals, the injuries in this test were to be only those of fire, not chemical.
Earlier this year, the hospital tested these same resources on a simulated fire within the hospital, and came up with good grades for being prepared even in the event of a disaster within its own walls.
While this test simulates a local disaster, the practice drill also prepared the staff for larger emergencies, since it would serve as a triage center for any disaster in the area.
Some weren't prepared in 1997
Although the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 made the public aware of the potential for a major problem, the United States government saw the need for protecting medical facilities in the mid-1990s after a biological attack on a Tokyo subway. In 1997, Congress passed the United States Domestic Preparedness Program.
"Even when emergency responders successfully decontaminate and triage large numbers of patients at the scene, it is unlikely that area hospitals are prepared to receive these patients and treat them within the boundaries of the existing healthcare system," the executive summary of that 1997 federal law said.
These drills help improve emergency response times, and provide practice for communicating with first responders for quick and safe patient evacuation techniques.
Four years ago, IMTT and other plants in New Jersey worked out safety agreements with the state that would help them follow stricter guidelines in regards to safety, using the American Chemistry Council safety standards as a base. New Jersey is third in the country for chemical production, with two of the eight facilities located in Hudson County - IMTT in Bayonne and Kuehne in Kearny.
Gov. Jon Corzine, when still a U.S. senator, had fought to get the federal government to establish similarly strong guidelines nationwide.
Although Bayonne emergency services would be involved in any kind of fire or other disaster at IMTT, the company also maintains its own firefighting force and other emergency response teams.