South Florida Hospital News
Wednesday November 20, 2019
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June 2009 - Volume 5 - Issue 12

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Being Ready for Disasters Requires Preparation, Training

Hospitals are critical to a community when disaster strikes. They are called on to treat those who have been injured or are sick as a result of either a natural disaster (like hurricanes and tornadoes) or man-made disasters (such as terrorism attacks, bomb blasts, chemical or biological exposures).

Because of that responsibility, hospitals work diligently before disasters strike to ensure they are able to react quickly when disasters occur and their communities need them the most.

Martin Memorial readies for disasters by first preparing our associates, who are urged to create a disaster plan for their families. This will ensure our associates know their families are well positioned to get through the disaster, so they can truly focus on providing patient care. Martin Memorial supports associates during disasters with services such as child and elder care, pet care, sleeping accommodations and meals.

Martin Memorial also readies associates for these situations through training and drills designed to practice responding to disasters. Many times the drills are conducted in conjunction with local emergency management officials, fire rescue officials and hazardous materials specialists. This allows organizations critical to emergency response to have familiarity with each other prior to an actual disaster, and provides an opportunity to work out any issues that might arise.

For example, Martin Memorial recently partnered with Martin County Emergency Management, Martin County Fire Rescue and Florida Power and Light to practice emergency response to a "victim" that had been injured and was also contaminated with a radiologically active substance.

To prepare for the drill a variety of associates including physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, x-ray technicians and security personnel attended a five-hour class on how to medically treat a victim suffering from radiologic contamination. Following the classroom training, an actual drill was conducted with a "patient" who was injured and contaminated.

This gave the staff an invaluable opportunity to practice treating the injury while managing and containing the contamination.

Martin Memorial learned a valuable lesson about the importance of planning for disasters after sustaining two direct hits by hurricanes in 2004 and another in 2005. Today, we are constantly seeking best practices from other organizations and working hard to implement our own disaster preparation strategies.

But rather than simply putting them on paper, we devote time and resources to practice those strategies so that when the time comes to implement them, we will know exactly what to do. By being prepared, Martin Memorial will be better able to provide the necessary care to our community in a time of need.

Sharon Andre, Chief Safety Officer, Martin Memorial Health Systems, can be reached at sandre@mmhs-fla.org.
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