How Hospitals Create Resiliency
By: Esmeralda Valague, CEM
Emergency Preparedness/HAZMAT Manager
CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System
Hospitals are a place where patients willingly surrender to health care professionals, their ability to provide for their own safety. Thus, it is imperative that hospitals are resilient so that the healthcare infrastructure can face almost any challenge while continuing to care for patients.
To maintain operations, every important system has a backup. For example, communication systems are the lifeline between the hospital, physicians, EMS, patients, families and other stakeholders. To ensure communication is possible, many hospitals have systems like Emergency Response Telephones , 800 MZ radios, satellite radios and phones and even HAM Radio.
Hospitals also have some of the most robust mitigation requirements in the facility engineering industry, particularly around fire protection. Hospitals are generally engineered and built with two-hour-rated fire ratings and isolated smoke compartments. This allows flames and smoke to be contained to a single area so that other areas of the hospital (particularly non-ambulatory/critical care and surgical areas) can shelter in place.
Should the unthinkable occur and all or part of the facility is too damaged by an incident to support safe operation, hospitals have specialized equipment to help move patients up or down stairs – even if elevators are not available. Once out of the building, mutual aid agreements would be activated and local Regional Advisory Councils would rally to move the patients to a safe place for continued care.
Finally, to ensure these systems are ready to save lives when needed, careful maintenance is done and there is regular practice. In Southwest Texas we have a monthly communication check to test inter-facility use of redundant communication and healthcare facilities routinely practices isolating fires, using redundant systems and evacuating patients using specialized devices. Cohesively, these entities work together to create a safe “environment of care” for all.
Physicians and Nurses at the Children’s Hospital
of San Antonio practice evacuating a Neonatal Intensive Care patient in a moveable isolette.
CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital -
Alamo Heights Associates practice using
evacuation devices to evacuate non-ambulatory patients down a flight of stairs.