Day Kimball gets through hurricane Irene with 'Command Central'

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Tue., Aug. 30, 2011
Command system personnel meet in the board room. Photos by D. Coffey
Command system personnel meet in the board room. Photos by D. Coffey

The Irving J. Schoppe boardroom at Day Kimball Hospital turned into Command Central on Aug. 26, as hurricane Irene made its way north along the eastern seaboard. The Hospital Incident Command System grew out of a system developed back in the 1980s as a way for hospitals to address emergency situations. The system organizes hospital personnel into specific job functions.

A color-coded flow chart broke the hospital down into four main sectors for purposes of an emergency. Yellow stood for logistics, green for finance, blue for planning and red for operations. Everyone had a specific emergency-related job within one of those areas.

“Emergency planning for hurricane Irene didn't start yesterday,” said Day Kimball Director of Communications Charlene Leith-Bushey. “We have an emergency preparedness committee that meets monthly. They just happened to meet on Aug. 24 when meteorologists were predicting that the massive storm would surely strike New England."

At 8 a.m. on the Aug. 26, as hospital personnel were making their way into the boardroom, Safety and Security Manager Martin Nugent put copies of the storm's projected path at each of the seats around the conference table. Along with it was a sheet detailing the supplies on hand for the hospital to make it through at least four days if the power went out. There was fuel for running the back-up generator for up to 11 days, 72 cases of water and 120 more being delivered, extra linen to last a week, enough medications and clean surgical instruments and general supplies to maintain the hospital staff and patients through a black-out. 

Director of Nursing for the Emergency Department and EMS Coordinator Ralph Miro said that Day Kimball had a robust relationship with the area's fire, police and emergency service providers. “We have a hands-on working relationship with them,” he said. “We always work with them when there is potential for hurricane or tornado, that sort of thing. We have called out to our commercial services to stand by on the grounds of the hospital during the storm. They will be outside the ER with their units. We do that each and every time an event like this happens. We reach out and they are always very helpful. They always send staff to be here on the property in case we need them.”

Miro said the drills and planning for such events are not held in a vacuum. These preparations are coordinated with all sectors of the community and are on-going. The emergency preparedness committee includes clinical leadership, communications, human relations, engineering, security staff, ER staff, medical-surgical personnel and ICU staff. Every facet of the hospital is represented on the team, according to Miro. 

Martin said, “We prepare for many types of disasters. We drill often and we drill region-wise and state-wide. We're familiar with most of the players in the state.”

They are also in constant touch with the Department of Public Health. It's possible that a natural disaster could impact the quality of the water supply. In that event, the hospital can rely on their reserves. They even have baths in a bag for patient use.

Martin passed out lanyards, as more command personnel arrived for the meeting. A cabinet that held binders for each of the emergency positions held was open. Leith-Bushey, who would become the Public Information Officer in an emergency, said that everyone had received specific training for each position. The binders held checklists so that whoever was assigned a specific role could do the job properly.

The consensus was that they were ready for Irene, and they were. Years of regular training had prepared them.



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