Should disaster strike were all on call

Joe Gillespie
Emergency management coordinator

March 19, 2014

The tragic events of the 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina and more recently, the Boston Marathon bombing clearly demonstrated the necessity of mass medical care at local hospitals. Historically, hospitals and health care delivery systems have been ill-prepared in response to mass casualty incidents. In recent years, however, they have increased planning efforts and training to respond effectively during disasters. 

Additionally, measures to improve preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery capabilities were codified in federal law and enforced by agencies such as Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Department of Homeland Security.

Providence Health & Services in the Portland Service Area has taken a progressive position on emergency management by employing a team of full-time emergency management professionals to lead disaster planning, training and response activities using the latest concepts and strategies in the field. 

Currently, this team is seeking to improve awareness and involvement of licensed independent practitioners in emergency planning and exercise activities, as required by The Joint Commission.

What you need to know

As members of the Providence team, it is imperative for providers to understand your role in response to a disaster and how you fit into the Hospital Command Center structure. Being prepared is the best first step for disaster response. In order to prepare you to serve our community members in the event of a disaster involving mass casualties, pandemic or severe weather events, each practitioner should:

  • Be familiar with your hospital's Emergency Operations Plan, which can be found on Providence's intranet.
  • Keep your hospital I.D. badge and driver's license accessible.
  • Know where to access situational information. Call the Providence Emergency Hotline at 503-216-4444 (number is available on the backside of your hospital I.D.).
  • Be flexible, since normal practices may need to be expedited or modified during catastrophic incidents.
  • Understand that altered standards of care may be justified. This directive will be issued only from the Hospital Command Center with advisement from regional leadership.
  • As an optional preparedness measure, register with the federal Disaster Medical Assistance Team or the State Emergency Registry of Volunteers in Oregon, which use a secure database to register, credential, and alert volunteer health providers.

What to do in a disaster

In the event of a disaster, providers not on-site at their workplace should call the Providence Emergency Hotline (503-216-4444) for information. If required, report to your respective medical center and check in with the labor pool to receive an assignment. If the labor pool has not yet been established, report to your normal chain of command or the nursing house supervisor to receive an assignment. For proper resource tracking and allocation, this step is vital.

As part of your assignment, you should be informed who you’ll report to in the Hospital Command structure. The organizational structure of a Hospital Command Center is flexible and can be rearranged or scaled up or down. Providers most likely would report to the medical care branch director under the operations section bordered in red.

Emergency chart

The emergency management team is engaging with physician leadership to foster consistent physician involvement in the Emergency Management program across the Portland Service Area. If you have questions, please contact a member of the Emergency Management team:

Mike Kubler, Portland Service Area emergency manager
Joe Gillespie, emergency management coordinator, PSVMC and PWFMC
Scott Clemetson, emergency management coordinator, PPMC and PMH