The following is an excerpt from our 2011 Annual Report.
In a disaster, the local medical center is a needed resource. With rooms filled with bed-ridden patients spanning multiple floors, a medical center must also be prepared for an emergency within.
Last year, Gifford held one of its largest emergency preparedness training events in recent years. In intense trainings held over two days, a total of 80 employees learned firsthand how put out a fire, communicate via emergency radios, and evacuate patients. They studied the locations of exits, emergency phones and medical gas shut-off valves. They learned about decontaminating patients and personal protection, and dealing with aggressive people.
Ruthie Adams, Environmental Services manager, was among those who went through the training.
“I think it benefits the entire organization to have folks who understand key and critical points, especially non-clinical staff, such as how to evacuate a patient using an Evacusled, how to communicate on a radio properly, and just being a key go-to person in the event of an emergency,” says Ruthie, who used a fire extinguisher for the first time and now uses radio communication in her job.
The training was just one way Gifford prepares for an emergency. Employees take annual courses and exams electronically on workplace safety, such as fire, electrical, disaster preparedness, and violent situations.
A 2010 grant supported a study, changes, and significant educational outreach on Gifford’s emergency codes. These codes are what employees hear called out as overhead pages during emergencies and include codes from fire to cardiac arrest to a violent situation.
Monthly fire drills are held regularly throughout all shifts and in varying areas of the hospital.
Director of Quality Management Sue Peterson defines an emergency as “anything that stretches the limits of our normal operations.”
Prior to October’s larger training, smaller emergency trainings were held with managers and facilities staff on radio use and responding to a “code amber,” which is a missing patient or person. Future drills on other codes are planned.
When mass casualty situations like a bus accident with multiple victims arise, which they occasionally do, follow-up meetings are held to discuss what went well and where staff needs to make improvements. An essential Emergency Operations Plan has been
painstakingly updated over the last year, detailing Gifford’s response to a variety of emergency circumstances. The plan continues to be updated so hospital staff can remain ready to address changing threats and adverse events.
“As a medical center committed to our community and as Vermonters with a can-do attitude, we do well,” says Sue. “But preparing for the diverse threats in today’s world is a huge task. Emergency preparedness planning is essential to ensuring that we as a caregiver keep our patients safe in a crisis.”