Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us

by Dave Robinson

Dave Robinson

Hospital Readiness
Originally published November 10, 2012

Every medical facility in the state (possibly in the nation) is required to have a disaster plan. A collection of “what to do if...” scenarios. In the event of a major disaster or pandemic, each facility is required to have a design for treating many people quickly. Although only ten disasters in U.S. history have resulted in more than 1000 fatalities, still it would be irresponsible to fail to plan for the absolute worst. It would also be non-compliant with the state medical standards people.

Each facility’s plan must be custom-tailored for potential disasters in their particular locale. For example, the community located next to a nuclear power plant would plan differently than the community located next to a major earthquake fault. New Orleans plans differently than Denver who plans differently than Seattle who plans differently than Fairbanks. You get the picture. Each community has their own specific needs.

One very good example of this style of planning is Southern Coos Hospital in Bandon. Each year about this time, they conduct a free flu shot clinic as a part of their disaster planning. If you wish to participate, you simply drive to the designated location, stay in your car and move through the process. A clipboard is handed to you, you fill out a form, move to the next station, turn in the paperwork and roll up your sleeve. Never get out of the car. The location away from the hospital was chosen because the traffic flow is much better than at the hospital itself. If the public has taken advantage of the free drive-through clinic, then they would already know where to go in a real disaster. The hospital staff, the police and the public are familiar with the drill because they practice it every year. Suppose there was a widespread pandemic and massive inoculations were necessary. Then a mechanism has already been designed and rehearsed to accomplish the task. If injuries were involved as the result of an event, then the location would be used for triage purposes. Patients’ injuries would be prioritized as to whether one would require a band-aid or major surgery. There is no need to clog up the hospital’s hallways with the band-aid patients, while the more serious injuries have to wait for the traffic to clear.

At 5:30 AM, on the designated day of the flu-shot clinic, the coordinator makes a phone call, activating the hospital’s telephone tree. Every relevant person is contacted and given instructions. Of course for the annual clinic, everyone knows their phone is going to ring, but in an actual emergency that is not the case. Still with a plan in place, the confusion is minimized and the entire staff can be mobilized with little fuss.

It is a model of efficiency and positive disaster planning of which Bandon can be very proud, while at the same time rendering a valuable public service. This year approximately 700 inoculations were prepared though the exact number of participants hasn’t yet been determined.

As always send your questions and comments to disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.

Note: Dave Robinson is Bandon's Postmaster and has worked for the postal service for 30 years. He has a background in law enforcement, served in the Air Force in Vietnam, worked nine years for the Coos County Sheriff's Department, and serves on the Myrtle Point School Board, where he lives.

additional columns by Dave Robinson