Recent catastrophic events in Haiti and Hurricane Katrina underscore the need for communities to prepare for large numbers of ill and injured. Local Southern California seismic activity and wildfires have demonstrated that when disaster strikes, the community’s response needs to be well structured and interconnected before the event happens. Pre-planning and community partnership at the local level is critical. The 2008 Southern California Freeway Complex Fire provided the reality to those affected that help may not arrive for awhile, due to competing resource requests. The community may have to deal with a rush of injured, as well as the medically fragile, and chronically ill community members in isolated pockets for a period of time. When the Freeway Complex Fire ignited and spread from city to city, residents and staff at one local nursing home were faced with the alarming mission of evacuating the facility. The staff was able to successfully transport residents to another facility, but were unaware that the city command post was across the street. This first-hand account of their experience provided enough evidence to city and county emergency planners, and private partners that they need to be proactive and engaged in community-wide planning efforts if they are to succeed in responding to future events and disasters. It is no longer sufficient for them to plan in isolation.
Surge OC was created to bring a diverse, new group together to re-think paradigms and forge stronger collaborative working relationships. During a disaster, when resources and coordination are needed, it is not the time to forge new relationships. And the planning cannot be done in isolation. The obvious reason is that the burden of the response is far too great for any facility or entity. By working together locally, and planning and “drilling” together, the private sector (board and care, skilled nursing facilities, dialysis centers, etc.), emergency responders, and emergency managers will have a conceptualized plan of action in spite of the chaos and the pandemonium.
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The four goals of Surge OC are to enhance 1) preparedness planning, 2) sharing of information, 3) resource management, and 4) the staffing and training. The key strategy is to focus on small community regions that might need to depend on each other in times of a disaster.
Specifically the Surge OC initiative calls for:
A steering committee comprised of key decision makers from various sectors (health care, community clinics, public health, social services, and city/county planning) to provide leadership, valuable oversight, and feedback on strategies and work products related to Surge OC.
Regional meetings to promote all sectors to come together to network, engage with other local health systems, identify needs, share information, and establish a process for resource requests and communication connectivity.
Implementing training programs to improve disaster response in the health care sector.
Coordination with State and County Associations for hospitals, community clinics, dialysis centers, and long term care/skilled nursing facilities to continue improvement of disaster preparedness.
Increase participation of all healthcare partners in the California Health Alert Network and the annual Statewide Medical and Health Exercises.