Keeping the Community Safe in a Disaster
On a hot summer’s day, the Tioga County Fair’s bleachers are packed with fans cheering on their favorite rider in its signature rodeo event. Suddenly, a series of loud explosions rips through the bleachers, and as the smoke begins to clear, dozens of spectators lay injured in the aftermath of a suspected bombing. The ambulance on scene quickly springs into action, notifying 911 of its need for multiple EMS, fire and police crews. What happens next? This disaster scenario sets the scene for Soldiers + Sailors Memorial Hospital’s latest emergency drill.
The first step in emergency preparedness is thoroughly planning ahead, which is something Soldiers + Sailors Memorial Hospital (SSMH) takes very seriously. As a key community resource, SSMH ensures it is ready to serve the community whatever comes its way. To constantly streamline its disaster response, the hospital drills its disaster protocols multiple times each year for all types of disaster scenarios—from weather events to large-scale accidents to violent acts through rigorous annual drills, tabletop exercises and evaluations.
Follow along for an inside look at preparing for a disaster scenario as the hospital drills a large-scale disaster exercise.
Upon receiving the notification of the disaster event, the facility immediately launches into disaster protocol by notifying the appropriate personnel to set up incident command. A notification is dispatched to all staff to report for assistance in their respective units, and staff already onsite begin to prepare to receive an influx of patients.
Maintenance and emergency department staff transform a dedicated conference room into a supply center, and eventually an additional patient triage area, while incident command assembles to supervise the disaster response: documenting information about the incident, what is currently known about incoming patients and ED capacities.
As patients begin to arrive by ambulance and on foot, also known as “walking wounded,” the emergency physicians begin their triage system of prioritizing who is the most critically injured to determine who receives treatment first. Quickly realizing they will need additional space for treatment, the staff and command center communicate to set up additional treatment areas in Same-Day Surgery while continuing to treat critical patients in the emergency department.
With any disaster, it is important to keep people informed through the right channels. If there is a public health risk, a public service announcement is made educating them about what to do. Family members of those who may have been injured are directed to a specific channel to receive updates about family reunification areas, including when and where to report. It is important to receive updates from the reunification channel instead of simply showing up to the emergency room looking for information because a loved one may have been taken to another facility, transferred to another facility by the time you arrive, or still on scene.
In large-scale disasters or in situations where there is a public health or safety concern, sometimes a press conference is held featuring emergency management, law enforcement, county officials and healthcare professionals. To practice this element of a crisis, Public Information Officer Kristy Warren arranged a presser with local media at SSMH featuring SSMH’s Chief Administrative Officer Janie Hilfiger, Tioga County Commissioner Mark Hamilton, Officer Frank Levindoski with the Wellsboro police department and Benton Best, Emergency Management Coordinator for Tioga County.
As a disaster evolves, incident command continually assesses the operational situation, establishing tactics / assignments based on new developments and requesting additional resources, staff and support as needed to ensure the continued safety, security and treatment of all patients, visitors and employees.
Following the incident, staff gathers for an after-action review to discuss the drill in-depth, identifying processes that went smoothly and workshopping where there is room for improvement to continually streamline their crisis response.
For more information about Soldiers + Sailors Memorial Hospital, call (570) 723-7764 or visit UPMCSusquehanna.org.
Idea/Concept: Kristy Warren
Videography: Andrew Moore, Ed Weaver, Regis Vogt
Video Editing: Andrew Moore
Writing: Kristy Warren
Anchor: Sara Vogt
Produced by Vogt Media
Funded by UPMC Susquehanna