Lessons Learned From A Major Incident In Orlando

October 3, 2016

October 3, 2016-It is one thing to plan for what you think will be a major incident in your community and then exercise that plan.  It is another when it ends up being a terrorist incident resulting in the deadliest mass shooting in United States history that took place no more than .5 mile from your facility.  So you may be asking what is it that I can learn from this incident to better prepare my healthcare system.  Actually there is a lot that you can and should plan for:

Location

When conducting your hazard vulnerability analysis, planning efforts, and/or updating your Emergency Operations Plans and CEMP think outside the box and take a look at what type of businesses and operations are taking place around your facility, not just within it.  Is there a large transit station nearby, is there a mall, is there a chemical facility, or is there a night club?  Being so close to the incident site was a good thing for the patients generated from the incident but it also posed unique challenges to our operations. 

Transportation

Based on the situation at hand, whether there are other hazards associated with the incident, and how close the incident is to your facility may dictate how patients will be brought or transported to your facility.  Again, you must think outside the box and remember that patients may walk or run down the sidewalk to your facility, be brought in by personal vehicles, loaded onto pick-up truck beds on a continuous circle, or by EMS.  Remember that mass casualty incident (MCI) triage tags are most typically syndicated with EMS transports and not the other modes that were mentioned.

Communication

As you probably know as with any emergency preparedness exercise or real incident there will always be communication issues.  Plan ahead and think about what some of the issues may be so that you can try to resolve them now ahead of time. Just expect them to occur during a major incident, and do everything you can during your response efforts to try to remediate them. 

Coordination and Collaboration

I cannot state enough how important it truly is to have a great working relationship with your community partners, and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs).  If you don’t know or trust each other now during a “blue skies” type of day how will you ever work together with them during a real emergency?  Most likely they won’t answer your phone call, text message, or email when disaster strikes.  This is a continuous effort that cannot be overlooked.  The FBI has a wonderful program called the FBI Citizen’s Academy.  I am a graduate of the program and can tell you first-hand how beneficial it has been to not only me but our coordination efforts throughout the incident.

Training and Exercises

Emergency preparedness training and exercises are very important to any organization and cannot be undervalued or underutilized.  Basically they are not simply a one-time initiative or a check in the box for regulatory or statutory compliance.  As evidenced with the incident that occurred here, training and conducting realistic, plausible emergency preparedness exercises do save lives.

The Media

If a major incident occurs anywhere near your facility there will be major ramifications and impacts from the media to your facility, operations, and the people that work, receive care, or visit it.  Efforts should be made now to try to lessen the impact they may have on your organization.   Simply ignoring them is not even an answer in the book; think ahead now about how you will engage and work with them.

Eric R. Alberts

Eric Alberts is a dedicated Emergency Manager who is passionate about the field he works in.  He began his career in Emergency Management in 2002.  Eric has responded to emergencies of all different types and sizes to include Hurricanes, Severe Weather, Wildfires, Multi-type vehicle accidents, etc.  He is currently the Manager, Emergency Preparedness for Orlando Health, Inc. hospital system in Central Florida.  A position he transitioned to in February of 2010. Orlando Health has a total of 1,720 beds within 5 hospitals (two of which are the level 1 trauma centers for adults and pediatrics), cancer center, ambulatory care centers, medical helicopters, and numerous corporate ancillary and support facilities.

Eric obtained his BS degree in Criminal Justice from Fairmont State College in West Virginia.  Eric is certified as:  Certified Emergency Manager (CEM), Certified in Homeland Security-5 (CHS-5), Certified Healthcare Emergency Professional (CHEP), Florida Professional Emergency Manager (FPEM), Florida Professional Emergency Manager – Healthcare (FPEM-HC), Certified in Disaster Preparedness-1 (CDP-1), Certified Homeland Protection Professional (CHPP), Emergency Management Specialist (SEM), & Certified First Responder Professional (CFRP).

Eric is also a member of the Department of Health & Human Services – National Disaster Medical System - FL-6 DMAT (Disaster Medical Assistance Team) as a Logistician, SMRT-5 (State Medical Response Team) as the Deputy Planning Chief, and a member of the RDSTF IMT (Regional Domestic Terrorism Task Force Incident Management Team).

Eric is very proactive in the Emergency Management field, and continues to look for lessons learned and improvements to emergency response systems.