No one could have predicted the number and magnitude of the natural disasters that affected Missouri in 2011. But, such is the nature of disasters, and that is why planning and preparedness pays off.
Many hospitals throughout Missouri activated their emergency operations plans and the hospital command centers because of the 2011 disasters. In situations such as the January blizzard and the floods in southeast and northwest Missouri, the activation of both the emergency operations plan (EOP) and incident command (IC) were by all accounts very successful. There was adequate notice and time to prepare, and the communication systems were uninterrupted.
Although the financial damage for all three events was substantial, the impact on the health care system was manageable.
As one of the deadliest tornados in American history, the Joplin tornado caused 161 fatalities and approximately 1,371 injuries.
“It is unlikely that an [emergency operations plan] will ever provide exact response instructions, but it does provide staff the critical thinking skills needed to anticipate and respond to a disaster,” the report states. “Emergency preparedness planning must not be an exclusive process; all employees and medical staff must know and understand the EOP. … Plan and exercise together.”
Among the lessons learned in the report, the MHA offers hospitals the following tips:
Make sure the incident commanding officer and other chiefs take time to establish operational periods of one to two hours and stop to review progress. They should also monitor for unauthorized individuals, such as vendors or media, trying to enter the hospital.
Assign a public information officer to address the media and enact the social media strategy. Use the backup grab bags of pencils, paper and flashlights if the communication systems like the internal phones fail, and establish a separate hotline for additional communication with staff.
Use the to-go kits of water, batteries, cell phone chargers, etc., placed throughout the facility.
Ensure that staff have multiple, proper IDs, and have a plan for lockdown with immediate security reinforcement or a crowd diversion procedure.
The tornado that struck Joplin, MO was a monster by any definition with winds up to 250 miles an hour and a funnel at times topping a mile wide. The tornado destroyed fire stations and a hospital while also killing 160 and injuring around 1,000 individuals.
Jim Morgan, local EMS medical director had a front-row view of the event and its aftermath; he distills eight key lessons learned in this article: