Jennifer, tell us about your role during an average day, and how that changed during and following Hurricane Ian.
As the NCH Emergency Manager, I am responsible for the overall planning and response to emergencies that could possibly impact our critical operations. The key to emergency management is analyzing how we responded to an event and identifying opportunities for improvement. This would include conducting both internal and external exercises or drills, facility rounding, identifying trends, and meeting with community partners daily.
After Hurricane Ian, we have enhanced our emergency plans, processes, and overall understanding so we can be better prepared for the next potential event. This year we conducted a town hall with NCH Department leaders to review changes to our plans and to help ensure they were ready to lead their staff through the upcoming 2023 hurricane season.
How many are in your department and have you done much hiring over the last year?
The role of Public Safety and Emergency Management is growing here at NCH. Currently, we have a team of approximately 60, and are continuing to grow.
With NCH leadership’s support, we are building a new state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center that will serve as the hub for our Emergency Management responses. This EOC will be operational 24/7 and allow for real-time monitoring and information sharing to all NCH hospital campuses.
Tell us about one or two unique cases that the staff was faced with and how they handled the emergency.
It came to the leadership’s attention that staff were having difficulty in obtaining fuel post-storm. Our staff resides in all parts of Collier and Lee counties, which created a challenge for staff attempting to get to our NCH campuses for their shifts. During our ongoing assessment of our needs post-storm from the NCH EOC, leadership was able to purchase fuel that was provided to staff, allowing them to continue to serve the community.
When the models were showing that we were at risk for direct impact, we began our pre-storm preparations which allowed us to increase our potential surge capacity. We successfully increased our surge capabilities to handle an additional 300 hundred patients, which could be used to assist other hospitals in the harder-hit areas and to allow us to better serve the patients coming to our Emergency Departments from the community.
You're the expert, what would you like our readers to know about the hospital and its emergency services?
The biggest message to convey is the importance of creating a personal preparedness plan. Our NCH Emergency Departments are open during the storms, but they should not be used as hurricane shelters. It is important that we reserve our available staff, beds, food, and other critical resources for patients. We have emergency provisions and plans designed to ensure the hospitals remain operational, providing life-saving care both during and after the storm.
We partner closely with Collier County Emergency Management and encourage everyone to listen to your local officials regarding evacuations, sheltering, and other storm-related information.