Tag Archives: NPR

Boston Hospital’s Focus on Preparedness Paid Off During Marathon Bombing

Post by: Kim Stephens

Emergency-Preparedness-Checklist-1024x682September is National Preparedness Month, so it seemed worth noting a story that appeared on NPR that discussed organizational preparedness.  The interview was on NPR’s “Here and Now” and  was with Dr. Ron Walls, Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston,  and Dr. Richard Zane,  Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver. The topic and title:  Before Marathon Bombings, Aurora Helped Boston Prepare. Several things in this interview stood out: 1. Drills and exercises won’t measure your ability to respond to a worst case scenario unless you test the worst case scenario;  2. It’s OK to question your state of readiness; 3. Twitter and social media matter; and 4.  The lessons we can learn from others in our profession are invaluable.  (CBS News did a similar story and the YouTube video of it is embedded below.)

Are We Ready?

hospitalIn this interview, Dr. Walls noted that their hospital did 70 drills in the previous six years, and he thought they were prepared. However, Dr. Zane provided information about the Aurora movie theatre shooting that made him question his underlying readiness rational. Dr. Walls stated “In all of our planning…we had never drilled for receiving more than 12 patients per hour.”  In Colorado, however, instead of 12 per hour, the University of Colorado Hospital received 23… in rapid succession. This information left Dr. Walls wondering:  “Oh my goodness, are we really ready for this?”

Dr. Walls pulled together his Disaster preparedness committee and said: “I want to tear this up [their preparedness update to the Board] and start all over.”  His new theme became:  “Are We Ready?” He said in the interview, “I wanted to ensure we could do this, and I didn’t think we were ready.”

Twitter Matters

One thing noted in the NPR piece was the importance social media played in providing information from the scene. When the bombing happened  staffers at some Boston hospitals found out about the event when they saw Tweets alerting them to tragedy from doctors positioned at the finish line.  This had an impact–for instance, at Mass General an anesthesiologist suggested immediately stopping all elective surgeries.  The report, “Twitter as a Sentinel in Emergency Situations: Lessons from the Boston Marathon Explosions, was referenced by the NPR host in which researchers found that Tweets sent from the scene appeared 6 full minutes before hospitals were notified by Public Health Officials. This information has left some hospitals asking: Can we use social media more effectively?

Prepare to Support the Staff

On a final note, Dr. Walls said that when the dust settled  he called Dr. Zane and asked him what he had done wrong in the first 48 hours after the movie theatre shooting. The answer came down to supporting the staffs’ emotion needs. Dr. Zane told him:

“Think of all the intensive emotional support you need to provide to your staff. Think of it in the most generous way… and then triple it.”

One piece of irony: the Brigham and Women’s Hospital received exactly 23 patients.

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December List: Partnerships Toward Safer Communities and Patrice Cloutier

Post by: Kim Stephens

The best of SMEM: The Canadian virtual emergency management community.  

One aspect social media that I like to talk about to skeptical emergency managers is its ability to facilitate professional development. This isn’t just true of emergency managers but for all professions.  David Carr of the New York  Times described in an NPR interview the role social networks play in his ability to understand what information is important. “It serves to edit what’s going on in the world, and it puts a human curation on this huge fire hose of data that’s washing over us all,” he says. “The question becomes where to look, and it’s nice to have some other people pointing the way.”  It always makes me disheartened to hear about public agencies that have completely walled off access to these sites for staff out of fear that people will waste time or compromise the computer system. That kind of fear really demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the value these tools can provide.

Governments do recognize the need to share information, however, and one way around the wall has been the emergence of online communities of practice. The Department of Homeland Security has a secure portal for their community of emergency management and public safety professionals called First Responders Communities of Practice, but I really like the example from Canada in PTSC because the website is open for all to see, e.g. no secure login and password to forget!

PTSC is a member driven, interactive online community that integrates social media, online profiles, blogs, discussion groups, a knowledge based wiki, spaces for private sector suppliers and students, that all serve to facilitate the sharing of information and collaboration.  It is sponsored by the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, but the focus is geared toward all response organizations. Take a moment to watch their video posted above.

The SMEM twitter community will recognize one familiar face on the site: Patrice Cloutier. Patrice is a mainstay in SMEM–the hardest working advocate I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, and the mastermind of many projects including this December list. As Cherly Bledsoe at sm4em.org pointed out (and gave a really big hint for me or James Garrow) he would never put himself on the list of the best of SMEM, it would not be complete without him. Not only is he active in PTSC, but he is also a lead contributor to the Emergency2.0 wiki in Australia, a member of the CrisisCommons management team, a full time crisis communications specialist in Canada,  and finally the writer of his own blog, Crisis Command Post. Honestly, I can’t keep up!

I acknowledge that my December Best-of-SMEM List has very few item under the tree, therefore,  I will be rounding out the top twelve every day for the next eight. Be sure to check back and send me your suggestions!