As Part of Coastal Storm Simulation, Health Department Conducts Simultaneous Emergency Exercise in 55 Hospitals

The exercise required all 22 acute care hospitals in the city’s six evacuation zones to relocate their patients and transfer them to 33 hospitals located outside of the evacuation zones; the 22 evacuating hospitals have a total of more than 4,000 beds

This exercise is part of the Health Department’s Healthcare Preparedness Program, which has worked to build the preparedness capabilities of New York City hospitals through support of assessment, plans, training and exercises since 2003

April 4, 2018 — As part of the Health Department’s ongoing commitment to preparing acute care hospitals across the city for a major coastal storm akin to Hurricane Sandy, the agency today conducted an emergency exercise at 55 hospitals. In the case of a real emergency, hospitals are generally given 72 hours’ notice for an evacuation. The exercise — the largest of its kind that the City has done — required all 22 acute care hospitals in the city’s six evacuation zones to evacuate their patients and transfer them to 32 hospitals located outside of the evacuation zones. The 22 evacuating hospitals have a total of more than 4,000 beds. The three-hour exercise tested the hospital staff’s ability to conduct a patient census in one hour; identify beds at other facilities; and assess transportation needs for patients. For the hospitals that had to accept a surge of patients, the exercise tested their ability to identify staff and space for new patients. More than 1,000 hospital staff citywide participated in the exercise. Funding for the exercise was provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response through the Hospital Preparedness Program. The exercise was coordinated through the Health Department’s Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response, in conjunction with the NYC Healthcare Coalition.

“It is not a question of if, but when, the next major coastal storm will hit New York City, and we want our entire hospital system to be prepared,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Through close collaboration and planning with the 55 hospitals in our area, this exercise will test the ability of a health care facility to ensure patients can be transferred to safety outside of the six evacuation zones. Through this effort, we know that our city will be better prepared for future events.”

“Evacuating patients from hospitals impacted by severe flooding and loss of power was one of the most difficult challenges faced by FDNY members when Hurricane Sandy battered our city six years ago,” said Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro. “Preparing for the next major storm that will one day bear down upon us is critical to the safety of all first responders, health care professionals, and the millions of New Yorkers we all care for and protect. I’m proud of the FDNY’s role in helping to plan this extensive exercise.”

“Collaborating closely with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on this exercise — and countless other initiatives we partner on — demonstrates that communication, coordination, and collaboration are the never-disproven hallmarks of our successes,” said Nicholas V. Cagliuso, Sr., PhD, MPH, senior assistant vice president for Emergency Management at NYC Health + Hospitals. “Planning, drills, and other preparedness exercises are the clear path forward to ensure the safest, most efficient, and most effective care for all, regardless of the emergency.”

“As a City, we witnessed the unrelenting force of mother nature after disasters such as Superstorm Sandy in 2012,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY). “As we brace for future storms, taking the right precautions could not be more important. To this point, I am pleased to see the Health Department conduct this training to ensure that our hospitals have the right tools to keep New Yorkers safe and healthy during a disaster.”

“In the face of weather-related emergencies, few things are as important as ensuring proper treatment for our sick and injured neighbors,” said Congressman Eliot Engel. “I applaud the Health Department’s efforts to help prepare our medical professionals to better protect their patients when the next major coastal storm hits our region.”

Congressman Dan Donovan said, “This is exactly the kind of advanced preparation that saves lives during an actual emergency. Two hospitals in my district are close to the water, and inland hospitals could be overwhelmed if floods shut down coastal areas. I look forward to continuing my work with the City in my capacity as Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications to ensure we have the right policies and resources to defend against natural disasters and terror attacks.”

“I commend the NYC Health Department and all 55 area hospitals participating in today’s storm simulation and emergency preparedness exercises,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “It is vitally important that New York City hospitals are prepared and ready for major storms, mass casualty events and emergency situations, which can occur at a moment’s notice. By working together in a coordinated manner, city public health, emergency management and medical service providers, hospitals and healthcare providers can and will be better equipped in the response to threats posed by natural disasters and expand our capacity to serve and protect all New Yorkers.”

“It has been more than five years since Hurricane Sandy devastated portions of my congressional district where many residents are still rebuilding their lives,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney. “Since that time, we have made great progress towards building a safer and stronger city. However, there is still more work to be done to ensure our city is better equipped to withstand the next storm — from our first responders to our disaster emergency communications and our hospital networks. Today’s exercise will demonstrate our capability to ensure that patients can be transferred safely and securely. It is critical that we stay prepared for future coastal storms.”

“As we approach hurricane season, New York City must stand ready to help the sick and vulnerable in the event of an emergency. When Hurricane Sandy hit NYC, we quickly realized many of our hospitals were not adequately prepared to respond to such a crisis. This exercise will help ensure New York hospitals are better prepared by making sure its staff can quickly and safely relocate patients to six safe evacuation zones throughout the City,” said Congressman José E. Serrano.

“As we saw during Sandy, hospitals need a plan of action during coastal storms,” said Staten Island Borough President James S. Oddo. “I’m glad to see Staten Island’s hospitals are prepared for another major event. We hope they never need to use this training, but it’s important to test this emergency plan to make sure patients will be safe in case another storm hits.”

Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried said, “With major weather events like Superstorm Sandy increasing in intensity, New York City’s public health authorities continue working to keep New Yorkers safe through proactive drills, careful planning, and close coordination with health care facilities. These efforts make New York a national leader on emergency preparedness and response.”

The Health Department coordinated the planning and conduct of the exercise through the New York City Healthcare Coalition, an organization convened by the Health Department that brings together public health, emergency management, emergency medical services, hospitals and other health care providers. The planning committee for the exercise included the Health Department, Fire Department, NYC Emergency Management, NYC Health + Hospitals, the Greater New York Hospital Association, the Regional Emergency Medical Services Council of New York City and hospital representatives.

The Health Department works with emergency management and EMS as well as the entire health care system, including hospitals, acute care, long term care, primary care, and ambulatory care settings to improve system readiness for any emergency. Exercises cover a range of scenarios, including natural disasters, disease outbreaks, terrorist attacks, or an active shooter. In addition to working with the health care system, the Health Department is charged with protecting the health of all New Yorkers by quickly identifying bioterrorism or naturally occurring outbreaks to stop the spread of disease through disease surveillance and laboratory testing. In an emergency, the Health Department offers mass vaccinations, mental health needs assessment, service coordination, clinical guidance, risk communication, and environmental mitigation.

Learn more about the Health Department’s emergency preparedness efforts, and how you can prepare yourself and your family to be safe during a coastal storm.

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