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Medical Response and Surge Exercise (MRSE) Bolsters Communication and Coordination in New Mexico During the Real-Life Response and Evacuation to the McBride Fire 

New Mexico 
April 2022


The Medical Response and Surge Exercise (MRSE) was vital in the New Mexico Healthcare Coalition’s successful patient transfer and overall emergency response to the McBride fire. The exercise, which was conducted one week prior to the wildfire, outlined the exact communication protocols, transportation resources, and geographic considerations that the response team used during the response. With the exercise steps fresh on their minds, the team knew exactly who to call, the protocols to follow, and where to go during the active response. In addition, the response brought together various health care and emergency response partners from across New Mexico and parts of Texas, utilizing the strong working relationships developed by both the exercise and the coalition itself.

"Lessons taken away from the [MRSE] exercise provided key stakeholders decision making points that allowed us to respond quickly to the rapidly changing environment of a wildfire.”

- David Merritt,

Region 3 Health Care Preparedness Coordinator


On April 5, 2022, members of the New Mexico Healthcare Coalition conducted the MRSE at Gerald Champion Hospital in Alamogordo. The MRSE is designed to examine and evaluate the ability of health care coalitions and other stakeholders to support medical surge. As the New Mexico Healthcare Coalition conducted the exercise, its members identified gaps in communication, patient transport, and other key elements necessary in carrying out a successful medical surge response. They were also able to identify geographic barriers to patient transport and alternate hospitals for patient relocation. 

“Utilizing relationships strengthened during the MRSE drill between New Mexico Healthcare Coalition Regions, we were able to quickly communicate to move patients and provide support when it counted most.”

- Jacquie Saldana,
​Region 2 Health Care Preparedness Coordinator

Response Activities

Exactly one week after conducting the MRSE, the McBride fire caused the once simulated surge scenario to become a real-life burn evacuation response. With the planning and response steps fresh on their minds from the MRSE, members of the New Mexico Healthcare Coalition and Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) sprang into action. In just minutes, New Mexico’s HPP coordinator had organized an emergency meeting with key response partners including the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Division Bureau, Chief of Homeland Security, EMS, Regional Emergency Support Function (RESF) team, and the regional representative for the coalition. The response was almost immediate as response partners got to work transporting 11 patients from Lincoln County Medical Center to hospitals unaffected by the fire. The response coordinators used an online patient management system to identify hospitals with available beds and coordinated with EMS to transport patients to various hospitals using both ground and air transportation. In addition, nearby hospitals in Texas were on standby to respond with either ground transportation or by accepting patients. 

“Because of the lessons learned from the MRSE, we were able to quickly mobilize our assets to provide continuity of care to those that needed it.”

-John Hodges, 
​ Healthcare Coalition Coordinator