Health Department and Fire Department Conduct First Ever Newborn Emergency Evacuation Exercise at Staten Island University Hospital

Exercise simulated the evacuation of 50 newborns, mothers and pregnant women, due to smoke conditions, broken elevators, and partial power outage

Event is part of the Health Department’s ongoing work to strengthen the ability of city’s health care facilities to respond to emergency incidents

Newborn Evacuation Exercise

April 26, 2018 — The Health and Fire Departments today conducted the City’s first-ever newborn emergency evacuation exercise at Staten Island University Hospital. The three-hour exercise simulated smoke conditions in the hospital’s obstetrics and newborn wards, requiring hospital staff to evacuate approximately 50 newborns, new mothers and pregnant women. Members of the Medical Reserve Corps, a group of highly skilled public health professionals, and nursing students acted as patients during the exercise, and dolls were used to represent newborns. The exercise included a patient going into labor during the evacuation. In addition, the exercise tested participants’ ability to evacuate patients; triage patients for transfer to another facility; assess available newborn and maternity hospital beds citywide; notify family members; provide members of the press with updates onsite; and communicate internally and with City agencies. 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 Health Department’s Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response works closely with the entire health care system to prepare for emergencies – hospitals, long-term care facilities, primary care providers, emergency management and EMS – through the New York City Healthcare Coalition.

“We are dedicated to keeping all New Yorkers safe in an emergency, and that includes our littlest New Yorkers — newborns,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Exercises like these ensure that emergency plans incorporate specialized needs and that we know how to do an effective and safe evacuation during a disaster.”

“Training and preparation are cornerstones of the FDNY,” said Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro. “This collaborative exercise with the Department of Health and Staten Island University Hospital will further improve our ability to respond to emergencies in hospitals; meaning even greater care and safety for vulnerable pediatric patients and their families.”

“We are all aware that we must prepare for disasters and acts of terrorism. The public expects that we will do everything we can to protect our children. In addition every day, at all times there are women in labor for whom we must also plan in case of an event. This exercise is designed to address these needs and demonstrates the ability of the City and Hospitals to coordinate and work together,” said Dr. George Foltin, Co-Principal Investigator of the Pediatric Disaster Coalition and Vice Chair, Clinical Services, Department of Pediatrics at Maimonides Medical Center.

“Children, our most precious resource, comprise 25% of the population, are often more adversely affected, and have special needs during disasters. Pregnant Women and those in labor similarly have unique needs. The Pediatric Disaster Coalition believes that the needs of pregnant women and children must be specifically matched to the appropriate resources in all stages of preparedness, response, and recovery, thereby providing the best outcomes,” said Dr. Michael Frogel, Co-Principal Investigator of the Pediatric Disaster Coalition and Chairman of the National Pediatric Disaster Coalition.

“Healthcare is all about readiness,” said Donna Proske, MS, RN, Staten Island University Hospital’s Executive Director. “You have to be ready for what patients will come through the door, and what exterior forces can potentially affect patient care.” Proske knows firsthand. She headed the emergency management operations response during the hospital’s evacuation in front of Hurricane Irene and the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. “These drills are crucial to be effective during crisis situations, because you never know when they’ll occur. We drilled an evacuation scenario months before Hurricane Irene hoping we would never have initiate it in real life. Just months later we had to do it, and we were successful.”

“Exercises are very valuable both for the hospital and the Medical Reserve Corps volunteers,” said Betty Duggan, Director of the NYC Medical Reserve Corps. “As health professionals, they are able to give important feedback from a clinician’s perspective. They also gain the experience of being in an emergency, enhancing their ability to respond during disasters.”

The agencies planned the exercise in coordination with the New York City Pediatric Disaster Coalition, a health care coalition that brings together hospitals and health care facilities with public health workers and first responders. The Health Department will evaluate the exercise in partnership with the New York City Medical Reserve Corps and hospital staff.

Since 2009, the Health Department has worked with the FDNY, NYC Emergency Management and the Pediatric Disaster Coalition to coordinate the health care system response to large-scale emergencies that might impact children. Last year, the Health Department and the Pediatric Disaster Coalition conducted an exercise with 28 hospitals to test their pediatric surge plans; the hospitals were able to more than double their pediatric critical care capacity within a few hours.

About the Pediatric Disaster Coalition
The Health Department founded the NYC Pediatric Disaster Coalition (PDC) in 2008 to ensure a coordinated response to a large-scale disaster affecting children. The PDC is comprised of experts in emergency preparedness, pediatric critical care, surgery, emergency medicine, and representatives from the Health Department, Emergency Management, and Fire Department. Funded by the Health Department, the PDC continually works to enhance the planning and emergency response capabilities of New York City hospitals, agencies and community members on behalf of the city’s two million children (22 percent of the city’s population) and their families. The PDC assisted all New York City hospitals with pediatric services to develop the pediatric surge plans, a critical step for the execution of the pediatric disaster exercise.

Learn more about the Health Department’s emergency preparedness efforts.



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