"We have done a tremendous amount of training and staff competency development around emergency preparedness using hospital preparedness grant funding. We did training on evacuation and incident command and surge management that really improved and assisted all the hospitals as we went through the response."
In Joplin, for example, staff at the devastated Mercy Regional no longer had the systems that they relied upon for routine communications. The tornado hit at about 6 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, when key administrators were not at the hospital. Land lines and cellular telephone towers were inoperable.
"They had to rely on their instincts and what they had learned in the past. That is a huge takeaway and it really shows the value of training and planning for healthcare workers," Gatz says.
Gatz says there is no way that any hospital can plan for every contingency in an emergency. However, hospitals can focus on the competencies that will be needed regardless of the disaster event. "We look at communications capabilities and their ability to operate different modes of communication, evacuation procedures and patient movement, and medical surge," she says.
"Regardless of the event a lot of those pieces are going to come into play and the consistency is the staff will be involved regardless of the event."