Hospitals know how to treat human misery, but responding when their own walls, rooms, employees and patients are threatened by calamity is another matter.
Disasters such as Hurricane Sandy last week and the Joplin, Mo., tornado of May 2011 are reminders that nature throws a powerful punch. They also provide lessons from which local hospitals and other institutions can learn.
Nevertheless, chaos comes in many forms — tornadoes, ice storms, earthquakes and gunmen — and there is no way to thoroughly prepare for each.
Though some New York hospitals suffered because backup power equipment was swamped in flooded basements, the backup generator at St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin was on the roof and was destroyed by tornado debris, hospital spokes¬woman Angie Saporito said.
No one plan, no set of plans, no drill or amount of repetition will prepare staffers for the infinite array of disaster circumstances that may occur.
“You prepare for everything that you can identify, and you go from there,” said Roberta Coffman, a safety compliance specialist at Alegent Creighton Health in Omaha. “I think the key is to learn.”
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