The Cambridge Public Health Department is responsible for preparing Cambridge Health Alliance hospitals and primary care sites for major emergencies. The Alliance health care system includes The Cambridge Hospital, Somerville Hospital, Whidden Memorial Hospital, and more than 20 primary care practices.
Power failures, disease outbreaks, and severe weather are events that can significantly affect or disrupt hospital and clinic operations. In such situations, hospitals may be faced with the dual challenge of rapidly mobilizing qualified personnel and medical supplies to treat a sudden influx of sick or injured people and providing continued quality of care to other patients.
Prior to an actual disaster, it is crucial that hospitals establish emergency procedures that address a variety of situations (e.g., decontamination, isolation, triage, patient evacuation, and emergency communications), purchase emergency equipment and supplies, and have the means to activate additional personnel. Hospitals must also train staff on their specific roles and responsibilities during an emergency.
Since 2004, the Cambridge Public Health Department has assisted health care providers, security personnel, administrators, and other staff prepare for a range of potential emergencies and disasters. This work has included educating hospital staff about pandemic flu, bomb threats, weapons of mass destruction, and other scenarios.
The health department has also trained Alliance staff on their roles and responsibilities under the Hospital Emergency Incident Command System (HEICS) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS). Finally, the department has organized numerous exercises and drills involving power outages, chemical exposure and contamination, infectious disease outbreaks, and mass casualty events. Participants have included the city's fire, police and public works departments; local health departments from neighboring communities, and other Boston-area hospitals.
Revised on September 30, 2009