We hope this never happens, but we have to be prepared for it

Sep 26, 2019 | News

The number of disasters we are facing globally is increasing, but disaster-related deaths have fallen dramatically. This decrease in disaster-related deaths is largely attributed to preparedness, coordinated health care systems, and better planning. But, mass casualty emergencies still have the potential to overwhelm hospitals and resources, compromising the continuity and quality of patient care.

On April 30, over 450 health care participants from Lower Mainland hospitals participated in a Code Orange (mass casualty) response in conjunction with a major plane crash exercise at Vancouver International Airport (YVR).

Preparing for an (un)likely event

Leanne Heppell, Chief Operating Officer for Acute Care & Chief Professional Practice & Nursing, Providence Health Care, said participating in the exercise was vital to their preparedness and coordination:

“The key to all of this is fast response and a very coordinated response… that is going to end up saving lives…the more training and practice that you have in doing these emergency incidents, the better we are going to respond”

This exercise proved to be invaluable for our preparedness as a health care system, as we would respond similarly to a plane crash as we would other to other transportation incidents (for example, bus crashes).

Watch the video to learn more:

Why exercise?

Practice is key to becoming proficient in a new skill or behaviour. This same concept applies to emergency management procedures – we need practice to effectively respond to real events. By practicing (it’s called ‘exercising’ in emergency management lingo) our response, we become more confident and prepared to respond to real emergencies.

Exercises are also a great way to focus our future efforts by learning where we may have gaps and where we excel. For example, the recent YVR exercise highlighted gaps in our ability to efficiently track patients across the health system and, because of this learning, we are now taking concrete actions to resolve this challenge.

New tools available for Emergency Operations Centres

We were also able to test and validate a new Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) Guide for acute sites, and with the learnings, developed a long-term care guide as well. These guides are available on the HEMBC intranet page and will be available in all EOCs.

Exercising – and the critical learnings we gain from these experiences – is vital to improve our preparedness, with the aim of ensuring the safety of our health care teams and the continuity of the critical services that we deliver to our communities. We wish to thank everyone involved for their commitment to emergency management and health system resilience.

Everyone has a part to play - find out what you can do:

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