Safety Teams Prepare Health System for Unexpected

Safety teams across Bon Secours Virginia create response plans and run drills, so our facilities and employees are ready to welcome patients and give good help in times of crisis.

All hazards respond. Or for those outside the Bon Secours Virginia safety teams, all hands on deck. Regardless of lingo, ensuring safety for the thousands each day on Bon Secours Virginia campuses is a full, health-system effort. “To know that others rely upon us to keep them safe when they are here is a big responsibility,” said Karen Fussman, interim director of safety, security and emergency management for Bon Secours Mary Immaculate.

Michael Craig, director of safety, security and emergency management for Bon Secours DePaul, agreed. “During times of crisis, you are dealing with the unexpected. You have to pull together.”

‘Two steps ahead’
Safety teams focus on prevention but have response plans for scenarios from disruptive behavior to large-scale natural disaster. The health system also must stand ready for any community crisis, as the injured may be transported to Bon Secours facilities for care. Ongoing drills and training provide much-needed practice and reveal opportunities for improvement. “Our job is about being prepared for what no one else anticipates,” said Michael Robertson, administrative director of safety, security and emergency management for Bon Secours Memorial Regional and Richmond Community. “What keeps me up at night is a false sense of security.”

Fussman shares that concern about complacency. “We must stay two steps ahead of everything. We can’t relax.”

‘See it through’
“When I look back at the major disasters affecting our area in the last decade, a few come to mind right away — H1N1, Hurricane Irene and the earthquake,” said Carolyn Tatum, safety officer for Bon Secours St. Mary’s. “I believe we learned the most lessons from Hurricane Isabel in preparing for future events.”

The most important lesson was the need to identify capabilities and establish response procedures for when our hospitals cannot be supported by the community or government agencies for 72 to 96 hours, Tatum said. Other lessons included:

  • „„Ensuring at least three days of supplies
  • „„Curtailing services
  • „„Supplementing resources
  • „„Planning for closing to new patients, staged evacuation or total evacuation only if there are no other options

“When emergencies have subsided, the safety team is the last to finish up. We have to see it through,” Robertson said. “I pretty much have a beard when it’s all over.” Fussman added, “Our satisfaction comes afterward — when it is all said and done, when there are no injuries or casualties. That’s why I do this. It is an amazing feeling.”

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