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Around Johns Hopkins: Preparing for Hurricanes and Other Emergencies at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital

The Safety and Emergency Preparedness Team
at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital
(left to right): Scott Seibert, emergency services
coordinator, Cheri Collins, environmental health
and safety specialist, Larry Green, director of safety
and emergency preparedness

At Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, the risks of a hurricane hitting are higher than any other Johns Hopkins Health System hospital. No matter if it is peak hurricane season or a potential emergency any other time of the year, the Safety and Emergency Preparedness team at Johns Hopkins All Children’s is preparing for the worst.

Larry Green, director of safety and emergency preparedness, and Cheri Collins, environmental health and safety specialist, along with Scott Seibert, emergency services coordinator, work together on a daily basis to ensure operations run smoothly at Johns Hopkins All Children’s in the event of a crisis.

Green’s professional experience began in the military and law enforcement. He started at Johns Hopkins All Children’s in 1990. He says the field of safety has always been his passion because “it is never dull or routine.”

Collins’ passion for health care began as a volunteer certified EMT-B while she was in high school. She switched her attention to emergency management, attending University of Maryland Baltimore County to pursue a degree in emergency health services. She started at Johns Hopkins All Children’s in April 2019 and says she “completely loves” her profession.

Collins and Green recently responded to questions from CEPAR about their roles and emergency preparedness efforts at Johns Hopkins All Children’s.

Q: What are some of the unique emergency preparedness challenges Johns Hopkins All Children’s faces? How are you working to overcome these challenges? 

Green: Due to our geographical location and the likelihood of tropical storms and hurricanes, we are always on a heightened state of alert when a storm is in our midst. When the hospital was built in 2010, a great deal of thought went into making the facility resilient against tropical storms and hurricanes. We have a building that can sustain us during a severe weather event, including redundant power (multiple power supplies in case of a disruption), separate water supply wells, high-impact glass and more. 

Collins: We also require all staff to complete a Disaster Assistance Response Teams form on an annual basis. This provides leadership with a better understanding of the unique situations for our staff members, taking into consideration the location of their homes (e.g., the need to cross bridges to get to work), their home evacuation zone and other special needs they might have (e.g., children and elderly family). Based on this information, each department has put together “Prep,” “Ride Out” and “Recovery” teams. Prior to a storm or other anticipated event, the Prep team gathers supplies and relieves staff members currently working if they are part of the Ride Out team, so they can prepare their families and homes. When the weather or event becomes imminent, the Ride Out team replaces the Prep team while they are still able to return home. The Ride Out team stays for the duration of the storm. When the storm passes and it is safe to leave, the Recovery team relieves the Ride Out team. 

When you have the potential for this type of severe weather that can last up to 72 hours for half the year, we always have to be fully prepared. 

Q: How do you plan emergency preparedness drills at Johns Hopkins All Children’s?

Green: The planning of drills normally happens in two ways. Our county health care coalition often plans an external drill with all area hospitals to practice a variety of potential incidents, such as a patient surge from a mass casualty incident. Our response partners, such as fire and EMS, county emergency management and law enforcement, are also involved. The second way we plan drills is by doing internal drills to practice potential emergencies, such as an evacuation and active assailant and mass casualty incidents. We produce an annual training and exercise calendar as our guide.

Q: What is one of the more recent exercises you planned, and what was the outcome?

Collins: Our department has learned a lot in the last couple of months since we started practicing drills in the event of an active assailant. For example, in May 2019 we hosted live-action active assailant drills in our emergency department. We are working, department by department, to improve safety and security measures wherever we can. We are implementing physical barrier devices that can keep doors from being opened, even if the rooms are accessible by badge. We have also started an educational campaign on “tailgating,” or piggybacking into a locked access point, and are now including this in our new employee orientation. Not only is the active assailant work helping our staff to be prepared in the unlikely event of an active shooter, we are currently looking at many other safety risks that can be enhanced for other types of emergencies, including the installation of panic buttons, emergency phone numbers directly on staff phones and more.

Q: What are some of the emergency preparedness projects that you have worked on or are currently working on at Johns Hopkins All Children’s of which you are most proud?

Collins: The risk of exposure to chemicals or other harmful agents is another potential event that we prepare for. Our team recently acquired new decontamination equipment, including a decontamination tent for a large contamination event with eight showerheads and specialized personal protective equipment for staff who would be responding to the event. We are developing comprehensive training for response team members so they can become proficient using the equipment. We will also hold simulations for staff members to drill their response.

Each year moving forward, we also plan to conduct hospital incident command system (HICS) training refreshers for staff assigned to fill our Emergency Operations Command Center. This gives new leaders some experience regarding the responsibilities of their role in the command center and allows us to ensure we are communicating any changes to processes from the previous year.

Green: Along with the decontamination equipment and HICS training, I am also proud of the numerous projects we have worked on throughout the years that have led to our hospital and other health care facilities in the region being better prepared for natural disasters, active assailant events and mass casualty incidents. Our senior leadership has always been and continues to be very supportive of our efforts.  

Related Articles:
Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Prepares in Case of an Active Assailant
Leading the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory’s Emergency Preparedness Efforts
Getting Ahead of Emergencies at Johns Hopkins Bayview
Preparing for the Unexpected (Johns Hopkins Medicine Office of Emergency Management)
Preparing for Emergencies at Suburban Hospital

Read the more news and information from CEPAR’s Hopkins on Alert.