In Healthcare, we consistently practice different disaster scenarios in order to ensure all staff has a basic knowledge of what is expected. We have drills for fire, flood, power loss, earthquakes, even Ebola. This last week we were tested in a different way and it became apparent that it is almost impossible to have a drill identified for every potential issue.
An anonymous caller phoned in to our PBX office, and stated “there is a bomb in your building, good luck finding it,” and hung up. We don’t have a drill for bomb threats, so the PBX operator determined what scenario best fit this threat, and called an alert. The alert was called overhead, and staff was mobilized. I immediately notified my teams to lock down their areas, and called those staff members who were throughout the hospital, telling them to get to a secure location. The facility was locked down, the police department was notified, and we were basically on standby until more information was available.
The police were able to identify where the call originated from, and quickly determined who the culprit was and that the call was thankfully a hoax. I began rounding with all of my staff, shared what details I knew, and conducted an unofficial debriefing. As we discussed the scenario, it became apparent that my teams were unsure what their roles were. As in any organization, different people had different information, all sharing what they knew whether accurate or not. The biggest issue for my staff was whether or not they had to remain in the building.
In any life threatening situation, each and every one of us thinks immediately about our own safety and the safety of our loved ones. Even though I am in healthcare, and have a purpose to care for those who are sick and in need of help, I can’t tell my staff that they have to stay. My directive to each and every one of my employees is that they have to do what they feel most comfortable with. If they are frightened to the point of immobility, then the best thing is for them to leave the facility. For those who feel compelled to stay and help, I will support and assist them in any way I can.
This scenario identified that we have an opportunity to fine tune our policies and processes in relation to disaster planning. We need to better identify who is considered essential and who is not, and ensure that everyone is educated as to their rights and responsibilities in a disaster. We not only have an obligation to our patients, but just as important we need to consider our employees and what they are capable of as we create plans that are designed to save lives.
What would you ask of your employees in a disaster? I would love to get your feedback.