Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
For the Healthcare Coalition to be immediately available to conduct response actions in a no-notice, sudden onset emergency, two functions must be continuously operational even during times of non-response: 1) the ability to rapidly receive information and notify Coalition members of an emergency, and 2) a decision-making process to determine whether additional Healthcare Coalition actions are necessary.
The manner in which these functions are addressed may vary from one Coalition to another. What does not vary is the need for a continuous baseline capability to conduct these two functions so they are operational at the outset of any incident. The authors of this handbook propose two entities to help the Coalition maintain readiness for immediate response: Healthcare Coalition Notification Center and Healthcare Coalition Duty Officer. These functions constitute the baseline operations of the Healthcare Coalition and may be conducted at minimal expense and burden to the Coalition.
The Healthcare Coalition Notification Center provides notifications (both initial and ongoing) to Coalition member organizations regarding an emergency. It may also notify Jurisdictional Agencies (Tier 3) about a developing situation within a healthcare organization. The information that prompts notifications may originate within the healthcare community, public sector authorities, or other sources (e.g., the media). The Notification Center’s roles and responsibilities include:
To accomplish these roles, the following requirements are proposed for the Healthcare Coalition Notification Center:
The authors use the word “center” to emphasize that this should be a physical location with the ability to perform these critical functions. At the same time, the Healthcare Coalition Notification Center typically should not be an expensive, stand-alone facility dedicated only to this purpose. To promote cost-effectiveness, the Healthcare Coalition Notification Center may best be collocated at an already continuously staffed facility that can meet the information and communications requirements noted above. For example, a private ambulance dispatch center has been successfully used for this purpose in several Coalitions. Healthcare facilities that operate as the regional hospital resource have also performed this function. Alternatively, Coalitions may use an established public sector resource, such as a municipal communications center, for this function; however, the Coalition must be able to access these systems when needed and not just when the public sector has declared an emergency.
An alternate Coalition Notification Center should be identified so these functions can be maintained if the primary center is affected by a hazard impact or if the center’s other responsibilities during a disaster prevent it from performing Coalition activities. Backup centers must be able to perform the same functions as the primary center. To maintain this backup capability, the alternate site may intermittently assume the role of the primary Notification Center during baseline operations.
This position operates the Coalition Notification Center and monitors baseline information 24/7 for any health-related anomalies that might signal the need for a response by the Healthcare Coalition. The Coalition may establish protocols to help the technician identify incident parameters that require immediate notification to Coalition member organizations and the Coalition’s Duty Officer. When initial incident information does not clearly indicate the need for a notification, the technician contacts the Coalition’s Duty Officer (see below) to further discuss whether a notification is required. These procedures are described in greater detail in Chapter 3.
Personnel serving as the Coalition Notification Center Technician should have the following qualifications:
The technician position must be staffed 24/7; however, it may be performed by a trained and qualified professional whose primary job is private sector EMS dispatch, poison center operations, or other position that is always immediately available. It is important to identify a backup for this position so notifications to the Coalition can be maintained despite a surge in other duties.
This on-call position must be available for initial consultation to the Notification Center Technician, to Coalition members, and to jurisdictional authorities (Tier 3) as the representative of the Healthcare Coalition. The Duty Officer serves as the Coalition’s liaison to Jurisdictional Agencies during the initial stages of an incident and may contact Jurisdictional Agencies to obtain relevant information about an incident to share with the Coalition member organizations.
Potential responsibilities of the Duty Officer include:
Personnel staffing the Healthcare Coalition Duty Officer position should have the following qualifications:
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