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From the Command Center: GBMC, Keeping You Safe

April 10, 2020
For some, the spread of the coronavirus seemed to happen swiftly and without warning. But for emergency planners, like Manager of Safety, Security and Emergency Management at GBMC and GBMC Safety Officer Michelle Tauson, it is their job to not only look ahead at these incidents, but prepare daily for when they arise so the hospital can respond in the most efficient way possible.

Michelle is responsible for ensuring GBMC has plans in place and trained leaders who can assume pivotal roles in the Hospital Incident Command Center (HICC). She also serves as GBMC’s liaison to FEMA, MEMA, and Region 3 Health and Medical.

The HICC team is responsible for coordinating all internal activities, action plans, resources and education as well as coordinating efforts with all county, state and federal agencies during a crisis. In regard to this global pandemic, the team’s top priorities are creating plans for the possibility of a surge in patient volumes related to COVID-19, which includes developing new policies and workflows, securing additional locations for care and reallocating staff members. It is also educating staff and providers about the ever-changing information being released by the CDC, as well as securing and preserving the necessary Personal Protective Equipment and supplies required for a patient surge.

Michelle doesn’t do it alone. A successful command center team relies on the synergies and talents of each team member. During the COVID-19 crisis, President of GBMC Health Partners and Chief Medical Officer, Harold Tucker, MD, and Perioperative and Endoscopy Director, Sharon Rossi, MS, RN, CSSM, serve as incident commanders.

Commanders change depending on the crisis at hand. For example, if there was an incident dealing with an information technology failure, the incident commander chosen would likely be from IT. If there was a flood, the incident commander would likely be someone from the facilities department.

Sharon and Dr. Tucker were chosen as incident commanders for the COVID-19 crisis by GBMC’s executive leaders because of its clinical nature, but also because they both have vast experience running hospital incident command centers. Incident commanders need to be identified in advance because training is required, including FEMA and internal hospital incident command courses.

Other HICC staff members are specially trained in incident team management and/or are specialists in the area being addressed by the incident team. For example, Infection Prevention is one of GBMC’s medical/technical specialists for COVID-19. Other key chief roles are planning, operations, logistics, finance, and communications.

Having a special team to focus on managing the incident at hand allows the hospital’s leadership team to focus its efforts on running the GBMC business.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and The Joint Commission require hospitals to have an emergency management plan in place. The plan outlines specific actions to take in the event of an internal or external critical event. The HICC team is a standardized national model, which allows for specialists to be assigned specific roles based on the event at hand and allows for efficient decision making.

GBMC’s team responded swiftly to the COVID-19 crisis because of the preparedness and hard work being done daily in the Command Center, even before a Code Yellow was announced. Prior to the first COVID-19 patient presenting at GBMC, tents had been installed outside the Emergency Department to help with patient throughput and to provide tests and evaluations in a safe and secure space.

The HICC’s approach continues to be the same, following the lead of the CDC, and communicating with staff and the community as much as possible.
There is a lot of misinformation regarding the virus, and GBMC’s commitment has always been, first and foremost, to the community it serves. As we release information, it is a direct result of careful planning and thoughtfulness on the part of the HICC team.

The HICC has addressed blizzards, hurricanes, floods, planned and unplanned utility outages, and IT outages over the years. The current pandemic is surely unprecedented, but GBMC is prepared to weather any storm thanks to the HICC.
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