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Providers reenacting disaster relief efforts

"Disaster Preparedness" brings to mind daunting images of the most recent acts of terror or mass casualty events that we share in our collective consciousness as a nation. Those involved in Emergency Medicine Disaster Preparedness are aware of not only these threats, but the need to prepare for more routine disasters such as weather emergencies, influenza surge, power outages, internal hospital mechanical failures, threats of active shooters, or the tremendous system demands of VIP patients.

Under the leadership of our Department Chair, Penn Medicine's Department of Emergency Medicine created a task force to integrate, standardize, and upgrade our departmental disaster preparedness.

A partial list of some of our many initiatives include:

  • Functional drill of mass casualty incidents (MCIs) and hazardous material decontamination.
  • Tabletop drills of active shooter scenarios.
  • Creation and functional drill of an innovative system for EM resident deployment throughout the healthcare system, in the event of a disaster affecting one or multiple sites in our system.
  • Creation and utilization of an automated ED capacity monitoring system. This system, in real-time, detects breaches in ED capacity, so that surge response can be implemented when needed.
  • Rapid registration system for MCIs created to integrate into our Electronic Medical Record system.
  • Hosting of periodic regional conference focused solely on issues pertaining to Emergency Department disaster planning.

Providers reenacting disaster relief efforts

The greatest accomplishment, however, was the creation of the "Emergency Prep Task Force". It has allowed clinicians, safety management personnel, and administrators from our three emergency sites, as well as representatives from Philadelphia's VA Medical Center and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, to sit together in a room and do the challenging work together. With these personal relationships, we ensure that in the event of a disaster, the person on the other end of the phone is not only working from the same playbook, but the person on the other end of the phone is a friend.

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