The ten year anniversary of the September 11th
terrorist attacks reminds all Americans, including health care workers of how important it is to be prepared in the face of a disaster. St. Francis Hospital & Health Services has a disaster preparedness plan in place to keep the community safe when needed.
Pat Giffin, Emergency Department Nurse Manager, is active in the disaster preparedness for St. Francis. She attends approximately 15 community, regional and state meetings each year to keep the hospital up-to-date on equipment and training.
As part of the hospital’s readiness, each department in the hospital has a disaster manual that explains the procedures to be implemented in the various types of disaster. Each hospital employee has also been trained on his or her role in event of an emergency or disaster.
Employees go through National Incident Management Systems (NIMS) training to provide them with skills for emergency management and response. In addition, the hospital performs natural disaster drills once a year and participates in statewide drills every other year to prepare for larger disasters, such as those as the result of terrorism and tornados. The hospital also participates in the annual Docudrama (drunk driver simulation) which helps not only the hospital but all the local emergency agencies test and refine their emergency procedures.
To assure that the staff at St. Francis has the necessary equipment and supplies gathered, organized and immediately available in case of a disaster, they are stored in designated areas on the grounds. In addition to gloves and masks, there are disaster-specific supplies such as protective biological and chemical suits to be worn by staff when there has been exposure to hazardous materials and disaster tags to help organize patients by condition so they can be helped more efficiently during a large disaster situation.
Most of the hospital’s equipment designated for disasters has been provided by the Missouri Hospital Association. The State of Missouri also issues grants to ensure that hospitals are equipped to handle disaster situations.
“The State provides this equipment not just for the hospital’s use, but to protect the public and keep the public safe,” says Giffin.
In addition to the primary emergency response equipment, the State has also provided the hospital with communication components to keep the hospital in close contact with the other community officials. For example, hand-held radios allow the hospital to talk directly with the police department when phone lines are not available.
In 2004, community officials created what is now called the Local Emergency Planning Committee to combine their disaster preparedness efforts. St. Francis, Northwest Missouri State University, Maryville police and fire departments, Nodaway County Sheriff’s office, Nodaway County Ambulance, and others meet to discuss and practice what their roles will be in the event of a disaster. This planning ensures coordination of emergency management services.
By involving managers from large companies in the area such as Kawasaki, Energizer, and Wal-Mart in planning for and participating in some of the drills, the Local Emergency Planning Committee learn more about potential threats in the area and what is needed to deal with those threats so everyone is prepared should there be an incident.
Giffin is confident in the abilities of St. Francis Hospital & Health Services, its staff and disaster plan. “If something would happen in the community, we’re ready,” she said.