Safety Counts! a newsletter highlighting safety at Hallmark Health System

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Safety Counts March 2015 - Download entire PDF by clicking here. 

Vol 3, No. 3, March 2015

Weathering the storm: Disaster planning comes to life

The Boston area experienced record-breaking snowfall this winter! When weather or other emergencies strike, Hallmark Health System’s disaster plan is activated to ensure the safety of patients, visitors and employees.

That’s what happened during the two-day blizzard at the end of January when a “code alert” was called (see codes article on back) and the disaster plan kicked in. Its hub is an incident command center established at a primary site. The command center is both physical and virtual, so off-site leaders across Hallmark Health can call in via a bridge line. The administrator on call at the time the disaster is called serves as the incident commander. Comprising senior leaders and other key staff, the incident command group assesses the situation. Department heads give status reports and assignments are made – such as logistics, operations and finance – to ensure the hospitals maintain operations and the facilities can function.


“Having an incident command center ensures that everyone is on the same page and working together,” said Rick Westhaver, RN, BSN, a clinical educator who assists with setting up the incident command center and serves as liaison to the incident commander. The goal is to ensure operational flow so that patient care is not disrupted. Among the tasks covered during a snow emergency are the obvious such as shoveling as well as tasks such as cancelling elective surgeries and checking supply levels.

Disaster planning also extends to employees. “For example, we have a bed coordinator who makes sleeping arrangements for staff who cannot safely get home,” said Westhaver.

“Thankfully, we don’t need to activate our disaster plan very often, but when we do, everyone is willing to lend a hand,” said Westhaver. “And we are always ready. Each hospital has enough food, hot water, fuel and oxygen to last four days.”


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