Natural disasters, storms, blackouts and other calamities are a part of life and their anger can stop major operations and wreak havoc.
With more than 184,000 patients in a 40-county service area, VA North Texas Health Care Systems’ continuum of care in the event of a disaster or incident is a priority for its Emergency Management Office (OEM).
Using a cadre of 150 volunteers, OEM establishes critical support services to ensure uninterrupted health care delivery to patients and employees.
At its core, OEM’s primary goal is to provide reliable information to veterans and the public about emergency preparedness activities within the VA healthcare system.
âUnfortunately, it can take a disaster for a lot of people to realize how unprepared we really are,â said Mike Hoffman, North Texas Virginia OEM coordinator. âTo survive an emergency we need to have the necessary tools and that is often more than a few extra bottles of water.
For individuals, emergency preparedness could include setting up a supply of non-perishable food, batteries, medication and safeguarding key documents such as passports and birth certificates.
VA readiness includes a possible response to the fourth mission
For large active medical facilities, readiness is a 24/7/365 operation that includes sustainable actions and the possible activation of the fourth VA mission.
VA’s fourth mission increases the country’s readiness to respond to war, terrorism, national emergencies and natural disasters, in conjunction with local, state and federal emergency management efforts.
Recent activities for the fourth VA North Texas mission included the availability of a Covid-19 overflow treatment facility to augment the overcrowded metropolitan areas of Dallas and Fort Worth home to 7.7 million people.
âOur OEM team takes a proactive approach to ensure that VA North Texas is one of the most prepared and responsive integrated healthcare systems in the country,â said Dr. Steven Holt, executive director of VA North Texas. âOur daily commitment to our patients and the local community during this Covid-19 pandemic has rekindled awareness of what it takes to keep patients, employees and the community safe during times of crisis.â
âPreparation doesn’t happen overnight. “
As part of day-to-day operations, the OEM coordinates the specifics of emergency management preparedness, including logistics, training, exercises and assessments.
The OEM also manages emergency plans, processes, procedures and develops policies and guidelines with the aim of maintaining emergency and disaster preparedness of VA, optimizing continuity of care.
âPreparation doesn’t happen overnight or through PowerPoint, so the VA North Texas OEM team devotes a considerable amount of daily effort to educating patients and employees,â said Dennis Pollard, specialist in VA North Texas Emergency Management. “It is while we exercise our abilities so that the best actions become automatic and transparent.”
Calm is contagious – the right mindset will keep you safe
By strengthening the efforts of OEMs, VA North Texas primary care teams, social workers, home nurses and other healthcare workers are supporting crisis management education efforts by sharing information about the crisis. preparation during in-person, virtual and home visits.
Individuals and families with children and pets should add extra layers of preparedness to their emergency preparedness.
âBeing able to keep children calm and occupied during events and looking after the needs of all pets in the home is essential,â Hoffman said. âHaving the right skills and the right mindset to handle a disaster will protect you and yours. Calm is contagious. Doing regular personal or organizational exercises reminds everyone to stay calm and be deliberate in their actions. Being prepared for the worst can keep you alive, safe, and secure. “