In 2016, it was a collision between a train and two buses that sent 120 people to local hospitals.In 2015, it was an explosion on the Suisun City waterfront, and the year before an Ebola outbreak.In each case it was a test, only a test—part of a drill involving hospitals and first responders throughout the state. And each time, NorthBay Healthcare’s medical professionals stepped up to participate. Why?
“Because drills provide invaluable practice to exercise what an employee may be expected to do in a real-world emergency,” explained Sean Zortman, NorthBay’s Environmental Health & Safety manager. “By conducting and assessing drills, we are able to continually improve staff knowledge and update plans to ensure effectiveness.”
In the past decade, scenarios have included gunmen on a local school campus, a Bay Area earthquake, which caused a collapse at the Fairfield mall, and an airplane crash. “While fortunately these have all been fictional, none of them is outside the realm of possibility,” said Greg Duncan, assistant vice president of facilities operations. “At the end of the day, we are in the business of helping others. This is especially true in emergency situations when those who cannot help themselves rely on our ability to perform as professionals.”
NorthBay Healthcare collaborates with a multitude of agencies, including local fire departments,law enforcement, the Solano County Sheriff ’s Office, the Solano County Office of Emergency Services, local school districts, cities and statewide agencies. “These relationships are important because in a time of need we all, to some degree, rely on the professionalism and support of other agencies to overcome disasters,”said Sean. “From day to day response by law enforcement for a workplace violence event to periodic fire prevention inspections by the local fire department, it is imperative that wemaintain good working relationships with our various partners.”
“At the end of the day, we are in the business of helping others.”
In addition to statewide disaster drills, NorthBay also conducts a number of internal drills,including quarterly fire drills on each campus.
Wildfires last October gave NorthBay a real-life disaster to address, as evacuees included not only patients and their families, but employees and physicians. “We had to figure out how to ensure our employees could get to work, so we could do the important job of caring for our community,” said Greg. “That included setting up a daycare program and helping our folks find shelter if they needed it.”
“In many ways, we can prevent some emergencies and,at the very least, mitigate risk by educating our employees,”said Sean.
That’s why the organization provides ongoing training,environmental tours and continual assessments. It’s a regular function of the engineering and facilities teams to check operations on everything from heating systems,water chillers and generators to oxygen tanks and high-tech medical equipment.
“While we can do many things to ensure that our environment is as safe as possible, there’s not much we can do to prevent natural disasters,” said Greg. “There are so many variables, it’s hard to be prepared for everything.But knowing that is half the battle. We have to be flexible and responsive when needed.”
Sean agreed. “We can prepare for the unexpected by not letting our guard down and by offering continual training, conducting exercises and taking advantage of lessons learned from other disasters.”