Optimize Emergency Coalition Response with Real-Time Situational Awareness

by | Feb 24, 2020

image“Coming together is a beginning.

“Keeping together is progress.

“Working together is success.”

That’s what automaker Henry Ford said about teamwork. Collaborative emergency management is similar. Coalitions made up of multiple facilities, agencies, and individuals succeed through this same process:

  • Coming together, by staying connected through reliable communication
  • Keeping together, by disseminating information in real-time for shared, up-to-date situational awareness
  • Working together, by using that awareness to optimize decision making and respond quickly and effectively

Riverside County Emergency Management Healthcare Coalition covers one of the largest counties in California, including 17 acute care receiving facilities, 54 skilled nursing homes, and more than 300 clinics, urgent care centers, tribal health clinics, and other facilities. The coalition regularly partners with local governments, school districts, utilities, city planners, military, police, fire departments and the FBI.

A coalition of this size has several potential challenges: information getting distorted in a lengthy game of telephone, turf wars, and different organizational cultures. Yet this coalition has built a strong network that responds swiftly to a variety of situations by coming together and keeping together through real-time situational awareness.

To better coordinate response, coalition members standardized their communication and emergency management platform. During a speech at the National Healthcare Coalition Preparedness Conference 2019, coalition member Corrie Sankey said, “It was critical to have a communication tool that could be easily accessible, simple to use, and able to support intra-agency communications without having to go through the liaison officer or the PIO (Public Information Officer).”

 

Get Corrie Sankey's presentation, "Optimizing Emergency Response with Real-Time Situational Awareness," National Healthcare Preparedness Conference (PDF)

Reliable communication for healthcare coalitions

Sankey, Director of Environmental Health & Safety, WPS, MLSO & Safety Officer and Emergency Preparedness Planner at Kaiser Permanente’s Riverside & Moreno Valley Medical Center said Riverside uses LiveProcess Emergency Manager to enhance coalition communication in several ways.

  • Traceability: “We can track if and when a message is received, and on what device, ensuring that the right people are reached with the right information without endless phone tag.”
  • Dependability: The automated contact self-maintenance feature reminds each member of the coalition to keep contact information current. If an email bounces back, whether because of an error or a job change, the coalition connects with that person directly so they can correct the information or remove them from the contact database. “With always-current contacts, information dependably reaches the appropriate people during an emergency.”
  • Specificity: Riverside responds to a wide variety of crises, so they use communication filters to contact users by specific skillsets, certifications or training. A hazardous spill calls for the decontamination team, while a disease outbreak calls for the members of the infection control team. The coalition can send a single notification to all the necessary personnel (and just them) to quickly mobilize response. 

Shared situational awareness for healthcare coalitions

Riverside also increased their effectiveness by using LiveProcess to foster widespread situational awareness. The coalition uses event logs to ensure that every communication is captured, so no update is lost, and all information is accessible to the parties who need it.

Most importantly, the log breaks down silos so all coalition members can get a clear picture of what each entity is doing and how a situation is unfolding – simultaneously, without waiting for an update from the PIO or command center. Sidebar conversations support communication directly with a single person or entity, so other respondents are not flooded with questions that aren’t relevant to them.

Sankey said that an additional benefit has been the ability to reduce staffing levels in the command centers. Without people repeating the same information over and over — and noise levels rising as each person tries to be heard — the command centers are more orderly and efficient.

“Probably our biggest asset is the calm and quiet force in our command centers,” Sankey said. “LiveProcess eliminates the chaos of people calling in to obtain information, and allows more staff to be deployed in the field.”

Real-world emergency management response

Riverside has used LiveProcess to improve response to both routine and unexpected events. For example, when emergency departments (EDs) and urgent care clinics began to see an increase in gastrointestinal (GI) illness, one facility opened a LiveProcess event log to begin tracking the illness and identify trends. Within 7 hours, the common link was discovered: a catered luncheon for 2,500 people – several had been diagnosed with food poisoning.  Once that information was shared throughout the coalition, staff began asking patients with GI symptoms whether they had attended the event, helping healthcare providers identify and treat cases more quickly.

Other incidents have been more complex. When an F-16 fighter jet crashed into a building in May 2019, the potential for problems was huge. The crash was near an air reserve base and next to a freeway during rush hour. The plane was fully loaded with weapons and ordinance, and the jet fuel could trigger an explosion. The carbon fibers on the plane were extremely toxic, making access for first responders especially challenging. Healthcare, fire, HAZMAT, Air Force, and other entities had to stay in contact and prepare for the worst.

Riverside County created an event in LiveProcess to connect the entire coalition. Real-time information from police, fire, highway patrol and the military kept all parties informed on the current situation and next steps, including decontamination activities, securing the ordinance, and re-routing of patients. As a result, each member of the coalition performed their part well and rumors were eliminated.

One of the most surprising challenges during the event was its proximity to a national cemetery, where funeral processions were literally lining up the street. With the area closed to traffic for several days.

Building a stronger healthcare coalition

Communicating more effectively has improved the ability of coalition members to work together. According to Sankey, “There’s no more guessing or trying to filter out the truths. With enhanced situational awareness and real-time collaboration, we can improve our response times and get the correct information to our staff and members. This alone increases overall safety for everyone and instills the confidence needed to quickly recover from an event.”

Our solutions

LiveProcess Emergency Manager is a proven system for emergency preparedness planning, mass notification and mobilization, real-time coordination and tracking. Hospitals and health systems, ambulatory centers, skilled nursing facilities, long-term care organizations, home health agencies, and public agencies use Emergency Manager to prepare for and respond to disaster events and for everyday disruptions.

Next steps

Learn more about how Riverside Country has used LiveProcess for regional collaboration in this case study.

Read a blog post about CMS emergency preparedness for healthcare coalitions.

Find out how LiveProcess helps hospitals, health systems, and healthcare coalitions prepare for disasters.

Get the LiveProcess Emergency Manager for Healthcare Coalitions datasheet.

terry-zysk-100x100Terry Zysk, CEO of LiveProcess, has more than two decades of experience in leading organizations that provide innovative solutions to the healthcare industry.