Emergency team has a plan in place for the next big storm

Doctors, staff can help by clarifying roles before it hits

The next time a storm threatens closures, YMG/YNHH ambulatory command centers will work together on a plan.

For a patient, sometimes nothing is more critical than making it to a doctor’s appointment. But during Hurricane Sandy and Snowstorm Nemo, some doctors and staff didn’t get much further than their driveways. In the end, there were stories of quick responses and even heroism, and when the next big storm hits, Yale Medical Group (YMG) will be prepared with a new plan.

Members of a new YMG Emergency Preparedness Committee have spent several months working closely with Yale University’s Emergency Operations Team and Yale-New Haven Hospital (YNHH) on a plan to manage emergency closures in the future.

“We hope we don’t face another storm as serious as Hurricane Sandy, but in the event that we do, we will be relying on all of our physicians and staff to do as instructed to stay safe and keep our patients safe. Everyone should review their processes for managing local and large-scale issues that can result from major storms and other events,” said COO Frederick Borrelli, who is leading the emergency committee with Project Manager Cynthia Dwyer.

Heroic story: Bethany resident Sam Lane used his snowmobile to help get his neighbor, Orly Levit, MD, to the YNHH during Snowstorm Nemo.

“People have to understand their roles and what resources are available to them in an emergency,” said Dwyer. “Communication is going to be key.”

YMG and YNHH collaborated on their first drill revolving around a mock hurricane called Charlie during the week of September 3. During that week, YMG tested a newly activated response team’s ability to navigate a remote communication system called VEOCI. Another drill is planned in December—this time a mock ice storm. The next time a real storm threatens cancellations, YMG will activate its team.

Team members also will respond in the event of other localized or widespread events including fires, hazardous materials spills, the spread of a communicable disease, or bomb threats. During emergencies or incidents that may affect clinical operations, the opening or closure of clinical practices will be coordinated between Yale School of Medicine (YSM), YMG and YNHH, working with Yale Emergency Operations and, in some cases, the city of New Haven. Ronald Vender, MD, chief medical officer, and Gail D’Onofrio, MD, chair of emergency medicine, and other physicians would be called upon to make important decisions.

In addition:
  • An ambulatory services command center will operate in conjunction with the YNHH command center and remain operational until ambulatory services return to normal. 
  • To the extent possible, all YSM clinical departments deemed to provide critical patient care will not close for more than one consecutive day, and those providing priority care will not close for more than two consecutive days. 
  • Updates on the situation and any instructions will be communicated to faculty, staff and patients through various channels, including: direct notice from their supervisor, the Yale emergency website (emergency.yale.edu), e-mail and Televox phone messages.

All employees should visit the Yale Portal to review and update their Yale Alert information so that they can be reached in an emergency. (Click on “my pay and info,” then click on the “personal information” tab, and then “update” in the phone numbers section.) The system is only for campus emergencies and not for routine announcements. Everyone should save the Yale ALERT number (203-432-5830) to their phone contact list so that when a Yale ALERT call comes in, they will recognize the number and know it is important.

YMG’s Emergency Preparedness committee is chaired by Borrelli and comprised of the following members: Maria Bouffard, Marianne Dess-Santoro, Cindy Dwyer, Marie Follo, Mary Hu, Anna Maria Hummerstone, Kathy Katella and Jackie Sessler, and joined by Diana Ellison and Cynthia Sparer from YNHH.

You’ll find more information available on preparing for an emergency, including a Yale Emergency Response Guidebook, at emergency.yale.edu.