By Suzi Taylor
South County Magazine, December 2010
John Greathouse, emergency preparedness manager for Mee Memorial Hospital, has a saying, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” There was definitely no failure when the hospital participated in a statewide emergency preparedness drill in November.
Dozens of hospital employees participated in the scenario that all four hospitals in Monterey County were affected with bomb threats, an-all-too-real possibility in this time of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
“Mee Memorial Hospital had a very successful drill Nov. 18,” said Greathouse. “The hospital was able to drill on all three targeted areas as outlined by Homeland Security – information and intelligence sharing and dissemination, medical surge and communications.
“The hospital staff did a fantastic job, with great teamwork and dedication. The hospital was able to identify areas for improvement in regards to response, which is why we drill, to take what is on paper and make it work in real life situation. I feel assured that if in the event of a real emergency the staff at Mee Memorial Hospital could rise to the occasion.
“I am especially grateful to the local Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) group who came down and set-up HAM radio gear to establish communication with the Monterey County Emergency Operations Center, as this was a great test of a very important alternative communication resource.”
The drill started with a bomb threat phone call to the hospital a little after 6 a.m. A team of employees searched the hospital and found four “suspicious devices, the most suspicious one in the lobby.” As part of the drill, the lobby area was evacuated and then the bomb went off- on paper that is, not for real. Remember, this is a drill. Part of the drill included the fact that no cell phones or two-way radios could be used so we were restricted to landline, email and fax.
Without interfering with the usual business at the hospital, the team and staff practiced receiving wounded from another location, keeping in contact with the county emergency services office, coordinating with different parts of the hospital, providing extra security and giving information to the public. That last one was my job, as I was assigned to be the PIO (Public Information Officer). I prepared media releases, pseudo set up a location for media updates and worked with the Incident Commander, in this case Greathouse.
I was very impressed with the team work, the calmness and efficiency of the employees at Mee Memorial Hospital. With the exception of Greathouse, this is not their main job, but they were all very professional.
All four hospitals in the county and Clinica de Salud in Soledad participated, each one given a different scenario. The county’s office of emergency services participated and after my first media release, took over that task so information from all venues could be coordinated. It is a sad sign of the times that we have to prepare for a concerted bombing attack in places like hospitals, but it is a reality.
Greathouse added, “The hospital will continue to participate in drills with our community partners in the future. I look forward to our next countywide drill, so we can continue to improve our responses to these types of events.”