The telecommunication team participates in all internal drills and community-wide exercises, which are critical to ensure they are prepared to communicate timely and accurate information to responding teams and hospital team members during emergencies. These exercises have identified several areas for improvement that were incorporated as standard operating procedures for the department. However, real-life situations such as the Pulse nightclub incident make you realize there’s so much more you have to think about and plan for.
The telecommunication team plays a vital role in emergency situations. Upon notification of an incident or drill, they are responsible for sending out the notifications via overhead announcements, paging systems and/or email. Once the notifications are sent, the hospital operator’s role is usually just waiting for instructions and additional information from the Hospital Incident Command centers or hospital leadership. The community-wide exercises are planned well in advance and typically occur during a time when our departments are fully staffed and department leadership is available. This is probably the norm for most organizations, but as we learned with the Pulse nightclub incident, tragedies don’t always happen when you have full resources available.
The lessons learned in the drills are documented in the policies and procedures for the department, and the staff receives ongoing training about them as well as any new procedures that are implemented. The telecommunication teams use the same call system software across the areas supported, so any changes to the system are available to all hospital operators. Our telephone system also has the ability to overflow calls to the other hospitals if one site is receiving high call volumes.