Preparing for emergencies can be a daunting task, particularly when you’re developing and exercising plans for an incident that seems extremely unlikely to occur. However, preparing for any and all emergencies in hospitals and health care facilities is important in ensuring the safety of patients.
In the United States, most health care emergency preparedness activities are mandated by accreditation entities like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and state health care licensing bodies. The Coalition Surge Test (CST), mandated by the US Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, requires state health care coalitions to simulate an evacuation of 20% of their acute care bed capacity and coordinate appropriate destinations for patients. Although the Coalition Surge Test was inspired by New York City hospital experiences during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, to many, the thought of ever evacuating a hospital is too far-fetched to imagine, let alone, run an exercise.
As a part of JSI’s Disaster Resilience Task Force, our staff facilitate CSTs and other types of emergency preparedness exercises. The most recent CST was held on Tuesday, April 23rd, where JSI coordinated a simulated evacuation with four health care facilities. Cheshire Medical Center of Keene, NH is one of the many institutions that never imagined having to evacuate their facility until their simulated evacuation of close to 100 patients in the JSI-led CST.
Prior to the surge test, all four health care facilities went through the process of taking a patient census and identifying appropriate patient placement and transportation options. With this information, JSI facilitated an exercise planning team to design a CST that met the unique needs of NH’s health care coalition partners and provided exercise control and evaluation during the CST.
Two days after the exercise, Cheshire Medical Center was unfortunately forced to put their skills from the CST to test. After a boiler failure resulted in a loss of heat and hot water to the facility, the hospital successfully relocated all 47 patients to other facilities.
“We didn’t realize we would ever have to implement that [evacuation] plan, but we just did,” Cheshire Medical Center CEO Don Caruso said.
Hospital officials were quoted as saying, “that training really made a difference” to evacuation efforts. JSI wishes patients and staff of Cheshire Medical Center well.