January 16, 2003
Crisis expert urges hospitals to prepare for unknown
By Collin Johnson
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—With tension rising in the Middle East and the threat of terrorism here at home, it’s vital that health care facilities be prepared for almost any emergency.
That’s the message Damon Darsey carries with him when he speaks to hospitals about the obligation that health care providers have during a time of crisis.
Darsey, the founder of Darsey Service Corporation in Dallas, is a paramedic who specializes in disaster response plans and management services for medical facilities. He will speak Jan. 21 at Methodist Rehabilitation Center on the potential dangers hospitals might face in Mississippi.
“The three main things people have to concern themselves with are weapons of mass fear, mass disruption and mass destruction,” Darsey said. “These are real threats and preparation is the key to overcoming them. People shouldn’t live in fear, but they should be aware of the potential harm they face.”
Part of being prepared is making sure that all hospitals—even highly specialized hospitals like Methodist Rehabilitation Center—are ready to respond to any situation with little notice.
If an attack or natural disaster occurs, health care workers have three priorities, Darsey said. “First, they must protect themselves so that they will be able to protect their current patients. But they also have to be ready to care for a large number of injured people.”
Some hospitals were caught off-guard by the events of 9/11, said Marcia King, director of education at Methodist Rehab. “We don’t want to be caught unprepared,” she said. “We’ve already done a lot of work planning for emergencies of all kinds. Inviting speakers like Damon to speak is just another step to help educate our employees and prepare them to respond if needed.
More than two years ago the hospital’s disaster committee began working on a bio-terrorism plan similar to plans they had already established to deal with air and water borne pathogens, mechanical equipment failure and inclement weather. “Damon reviewed our comprehensive disaster plan and told us that we were as prepared or more prepared than any hospital he had reviewed,” said Dennis Cagle, director of physical plant and safety officer at Methodist.
“A team made up of representatives from all areas of the hospital has spent a lot of time anticipating almost any contingency,” he said. “But their work will never be done. They must always be vigilant and continue to educate themselves and our staff.”
It’s important for everyone to understand what the real threats are and what’s just fear, King said. “Rather than being afraid of the unknown, we have to separate the facts from the fear. We need to know how to protect our families and our communities.”
Darsey’s presentation at Methodist Rehabilitation Center is free and open to the public. Call 601-364-3359 for more information.
For more information:
Expert to raise hospital vigilance | The Clarion-Ledger