Hospitals Examine Their Disaster Recovery Communications

New study finds communication breakdown to be a key issue — Wireless intercom system Plays Critical Role in Effective Response to Mass Casualty Incidents(PRWEB) March 7, 2006 — Hospitals have been reexamining their disaster plans and conducting disaster drills — complete with staff covered by protective decontamination suits. And government agencies are seeking to determine the best ways to mitigate the potential impact of a Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) that may involve natural, chemical, biological or other agents are examining the effectiveness of disaster recovery communications.

he Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations issued new Environment of Care standards effective January 1, 2001 that require hospitals to test their emergency management plan twice a year, including at least one community-wide practice drill to assess communications, coordination, and the effectiveness of command structures.

Alan Goldstein, a member of the Disaster Preparedness Committee and Director of Audio Visual and Medical Photography at Sherman Oaks Hospital in California, says “we do drills with biohazard suits that are used for decontamination. These are fully contained, including helmets with air being pumped inside. Unless the team is right on top of each other screaming at the top of their lungs, they can’t communicate with each other.”

In a report published by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, “Training of Hospital Staff to Respond To A Mass Casualty Incident,” communications breakdown, including the inadequacy of overhead intercom systems, a lack of training for radio communications, and emergency departments becoming overwhelmed and unable to receive messages, was cited as a key issue.

To streamline his disaster recovery communications Goldstein “searched trade shows for a wireless intercom system solution and found the PortaCom Pro from Anchor Audio. These are now a standard part of our decontamination suits,” he says. “Before the helmet is put on, the headset and microphone are attached to a belt or pocket and turned on.”

Goldstein says, “it’s a good way to for the hospital staff in suits to communicate to their team leader several hundred feet away that ‘we’re sending two victims to you’ or ‘We need some help out on the street’.”

Sherman Oaks Hospital is one of fourteen hospitals under the umbrella of the Disaster Resource Center at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Burbank, California. These standards require hospitals to develop “cooperative planning among health care organizations that together, provide services to a contiguous geographic area.”

Hospitals like Sherman Oaks and St. Josephs are part of a network of Disaster Resource Centers across the United States that is working to improve overall disaster preparedness and disaster recovery communications.

The key to effective disaster response is superior internal and external communications. The wireless intercom system is proving to be an essential tool in disaster recovery communications and responding to mass casualty incidents.

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