Snowstorm - Cars rendered immobile - incident management systems

Incident Management Systems and Emergency Plans Helped Buffalo Hospitals Endure the Snowstorm

Buffalo Snow Storm Crisis and Business Continuity

In November 2014, Buffalo, New York residents were pummeled with nearly 8 feet of snow in just three days, the amount they typically get in an entire year. For some, this snow storm meant several days off of school and work, but for emergency and healthcare personnel, it was a chance to put their incident management systems and plans to work.

Early Warnings Allowed for Some Preparation
Hearty Buffalonians know what it takes to weather a storm, but the lake-effect snowbands made the November storm prolific. Luckily, early predictions alerted residents to the potential for epic snowfall which gave a bit of time for preparations. Hospice organizations were able to call their patients to ensure they had several days of medication and oxygen supplies on hand. However, even with the early warnings, there were still some who failed to prepare properly because they just didn’t believe the weather forecast hype.

Emergency Preparedness and Training Make a Difference
In order to endure extreme weather events, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services expects that hospitals have plans, procedures and systems in place for emergency management. Buffalo-area hospitals pulled through the storm, in part, because plans were in place and personnel were trained.

C.J. Urlaub, president and CEO of Buffalo’s Mercy Hospital, when interviewed at the time of the storm, said, “We have prepared and trained for this. There is enough food, medications and oxygen.”

In south Buffalo, Mercy Hospital also relied on its emergency plans and refined that plan with lessons learned from past storms. A few things they knew to do:

  • Cancel all elective surgery
  • Ask staff members to stay beyond regularly scheduled shifts
  • Evaluate supplies such as gas for generators and food for patients

Overlooked Areas Became Apparent, Incident Management Personnel Need to Flex
As the storm continued to dump snow sometimes as quickly as 4 inches per hour, the healthcare personnel charged with managing the emergency response had to be nimble to respond to the unpredictable aspects of the snowstorm. For example, although four-wheel-drive vehicles were available to carry doctors, nurses and other personnel to the hospital, the streets around the facility became impassable for any vehicle because they were so clogged with snow and abandoned cars. In several instances, snowmobiles ended up getting the nurses and doctors to the facility.

Buffalo hospitals also became a place for stranded employees and other residents to ride out the storm, which made it essential that the incident response expanded to address those that congregated there as a safe haven.

How to Use This Information
As the emergency and healthcare personnel found out in Buffalo, it is critical to have emergency response plans in place well before you need to use them. Training exercises and actual events are crucial to refining your plan. A good way to determine how prepared your organization is to handle an emergency management situation is to take MissionMode’s Readiness Survey. When you’re ready to enhance your incident management solutions, we’d be happy to help. Please call us at 877-833-7763 or contact us today.

How would an epic snowstorm impact your operations and what contingency plans do you need to have in place to weather the storm?