‘Tranquil Terminus’: Mobile infectious disease-fighting drill arrives in Spokane

A Boeing 747 landed at Spokane International Airport on Wednesday, as part of a practice drill for combating infectious diseases.

The exercise, entitled ‘Tranquil Terminus’, allowed for practice of proper response procedures. The Department of Health and Human Services, the Washington State Department of Health, the Spokane Regional Health District and Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, among other agencies, played roles. Similar drills were carried out in seven other states.

The jet is equipped with a Containerized Bio-Containment System, a fully equipped treatment facility that allows medical staff to treat the patients in transport, while also preventing them from being contaminated with the disease.

“They’re loaded in through the nose of the 747- and they’re either walked or carried through this door in here,” said Vance Ferebee and nurse and paramedic with Phoenix Air, who operates the CBCS. “We hook em up to the monitors, do an assessment treat anything that’s urgent and then prepare to take off so we can move on the the next location.”

Ferebee has worked with Phoenix Air for years. During the outbreak of the Ebola virus in 2014, Ferebee and his teams ferried Ebola patients one at a time, and used tents to keep them contained.

The CBCS can carry four patients at a time, though Ferebee said not all hospitals are equipped to take more than one infectious disease patient, which would add time and money to the use of the jet. He said that’s something they’re still working out.

For the purpose of Wednesday’s drill, entitled Tranquil Terminus, the mock patients were believed to have Ebola. They were being transferred from Boise, where they presented their symptoms to a hospital, to Provide Sacred Heart Medical Center’s Special Pathogens Unit (SPU).

The unit was created about two and a half years ago. It’s one of ten facilities in the country equipped for this kind of situation- both the drill and real case.

“We train with them on a regular basis and then we have a patient handoff occur at Sacred Heart where our team members are ready to receive care of that patient from AMR,” said Christa Arguinchona, a nurse and the project coordinator for the SPU.

But, before those patients are lowered from the plane into waiting ambulances, they’re safely quarantined on the CBCS, Medical staff on board follow strict instructions and are monitored as they tend to their patients’ hypothetical symptoms.

The drills and technology implement lessons learned in outbreaks past- though those involved in Tranquil Terminus hope they’ll never really need to use it in a real situation.

“Hopefully this thing will never get used and you’ll take your grand-kids to the Air and Space Museum and this thing will be over in a corner and you’ll get to see it,” Ferebee said.