Healthy Living in the North

Emergency Drills in Fort St. John and Dawson Creek

NH staff in vests sitting at a meeting room table talking.

Dawson Creek Drill. L-R: Jennifer Dunn, Dawson Creek Director of Care (green vest); Cheryl Danchuk, Manager of Support Services, NE (orange vest); Blaine Curry, Chief Technologist (blue vest); Dean Gagnon, Maintenance Supervisor (yellow vest).

Talk about being proactive! Teams in Fort St. John and Dawson Creek took part in training scenarios that simulated major emergency events in each community. The scenarios train Northern Health (NH) staff in emergency procedures that would be followed during events with mass casualties. Northern Health’s Health Emergency Management of BC (HEMBC) Team thought up the scenarios and in no way are predicting future incidents; they’re simply training exercises.

“The Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) training includes code drills and functional exercises that help to provide leadership with foundational knowledge,” says Mary Charters with the NH HEMBC team. “This knowledge would be used to effectively respond in an event where an EOC may be activated for an event that overwhelms daily operations of a department or facility.”

Two women look at a Google Earth view of a building on a projection screen.

Fort St. John Drill. L-R: Tanya Stevens-Fleming, Inpatient Unit Leader; and Bianca Krezanoski, Manager of Business Support, NE

Feedback received from the group included: “The exercises were excellent in getting me thinking about what I need to do for my part to ensure I’m ready to step up!”

A big thanks to everyone who participated and to the NH Health Emergency Management team for putting on the training sessions!

People stand around a meeting room table wearing vests and holding papers.

Fort St. John Drill. L-R: Bianca Krezanoski, Manager of Business Support, NE; Kathryn Peters, Director of Care; Corinna Fugere, Admin Assistant, NP Admin; and Teresa McCoy, Clinical Nurse Educator.

Brandan Spyker

About Brandan Spyker

Brandan works in digital communications at NH. He helps manage our staff Intranet but also creates graphics, monitors social media and shoots video for NH. Born and raised in Prince George, Brandan started out in TV broadcasting as a technical director before making the jump into healthcare. Outside of work he enjoys spending quality time and travelling with his wife, daughter and son. He’s a techie/nerd. He likes learning about all the new tech and he's a big Star Wars fan. He also enjoys watching and playing sports.

Share

How Northern Health is changing the way it communicates in emergencies

Four of five members of the team that implemented SnapComms is pictured.

The Northern Health SnapComms team. Left to right: Laura Johnson, Project Coordinator, Service Delivery; Jim Fitzpatrick, Director, Health Emergency Management BC, North; Anne Scott, Regional Manager, Corporate and Program Communications; Brandan Spyker, Intranet Specialist. Unavailable for photo: Amber Frizzi, Coordinator, Health Emergency Management BC, North.

During the 2017 wildfires, Northern Health facilities in Prince George and Quesnel took in more than 300 evacuees over a six-week period.

After the evacuees returned home, many departments in the organization went through a strategic review of what worked and what we could improve on if a similar situation occurred again. While there was a lot to celebrate around the unprecedented effort, one area for improvement was our communication to frontline staff and doctors. Northern Health’s leadership sent many updates by email during the wildfire situation, but staff and doctors may rarely check emails because of their other duties.

To help solve this problem, Northern Health has started using innovative third-party technology to keep patients, staff, and doctors safe in emergencies. The technology, called SnapComms, is used by more than 150 health care organizations worldwide, and can send alerts that make emergency messages almost unmissable.

An article on Northern Health’s use of SnapComms was recently featured in Canadian Healthcare Technology, a magazine with over 12,000 readers across the country. We even made the front cover! Check it out to learn more about how SnapComms will help Northern Health staff during an emergency.

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.

Share

Northern Health emergency guides spark national interest

The cover of the Relocation Guide is pictured.

The Relocation Guide, for use if your community is under evacuation alert, and NH wants to relocate patients or residents proactively.

Two unique Northern Health handbooks developed in the aftermath of the 2017 wildfires are inspiring other health organizations in BC and across Canada.

One guides hospitals and other health care facilities on how to safely relocate their patients during an emergency (for example, moving them to another community).

The other gives tips on how to receive patients being transferred from elsewhere – like when 254 hospital patients and care home residents from the Cariboo were evacuated to Prince George and Quesnel in 2017.

“Together, the two guides can help an organization cope in the face of emergency,” says Jana Hargreaves, Coordinator, Northern Health Emergency Management, who led the guides’ development. “Having clear guidelines in a crisis should result in better care for the patients involved.”

Other health authorities in BC have expressed interest in making their own versions of the Northern Health guidebooks, and there’s also been interest from Nova Scotia and the Yukon.

The cover of the Receiving Guide is pictured.

The Receiving Guide, for facilities and communities hosting evacuated patient/residents from another community.

“The concept of a quick-access document that an emergency operations centre can refer to during a crisis is unique and has been championed by Jana,” says Jim Fitzpatrick, Director, Northern Health Emergency Management. “Other organizations are requesting the information to see what we’ve done and how they could adapt it to their operations.”

The team at Northern Health likes to think of the two guides as “evergreen pathfinder” documents – in other words, they’re constantly evolving.

“It’s important to always be on the lookout to improve them,” says Jim. “There may be similar documents out there, but we haven’t found them yet. If we do, we’ll definitely review them with the intent to learn and adopt as appropriate.”

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

Share

Northern Health launches emergency notification system for staff computers and workstations

A desktop computer screen showing a popup test message.

An example of a SnapComms desktop alert and ticker on a nurse workstation computer in Quesnel during pilot project.

The 2017 Cariboo wildfires had a big impact on our region. It also proved to be a good learning opportunity for Northern Health (NH).

Following the wildfires, an after action report put together by the Northern Health Emergency Management BC (NHEMBC) team said staff felt there was room for improvement in the communications about changing emergency situations. Email doesn’t always work for reaching frontline staff, nurses, physicians, and other health care providers.

The NH Communications team and Information Technology Services (ITS) worked with NHEMBC to explore solutions.

After a year and half of testing and a two-day pilot in Quesnel, we’re pleased to launch SnapComms. SnapComms provides desktop alerts and a non-intrusive ticker to provide updates to staff on their computers. The NH Communications team, in collaboration with NHEMBC, will control the alerts and messaging. NH alerts do not replace alerts or notices sent out by any government or forest service agency, and are specific to Northern Health services and region only.

“SnapComms provides another avenue for the organization to be able to communicate with its staff in emergency situations,” says Laura Johnson, NH ITS Project Manager for SnapComms. “This is extremely important for our region, particularly as we deal with growing wildfires each year. Instead of reaching staff just through email, a message can pop up directly on their workstation providing critical details in an emergency situation.”

SnapComms was rolled out to all NH computers early this month, excluding important clinical computers. Messages will be targeted to computers and users in the affected area (e.g. Quesnel won’t receive notifications about a code orange in Prince Rupert.).

In alignment with our value of Innovation, NH is the first health authority in BC to launch a tool of this kind.

Brandan Spyker

About Brandan Spyker

Brandan works in digital communications at NH. He helps manage our staff Intranet but also creates graphics, monitors social media and shoots video for NH. Born and raised in Prince George, Brandan started out in TV broadcasting as a technical director before making the jump into healthcare. Outside of work he enjoys spending quality time and travelling with his wife, daughter and son. He’s a techie/nerd. He likes learning about all the new tech and he's a big Star Wars fan. He also enjoys watching and playing sports.

Share

Getting ready for fire season

The NH Emergency Management team posing.

The NH Emergency Management team. L – R: Amber Frizzi, Coordinator; Jim Fitzpatrick, Director; and Jana Hargreaves, Coordinator.

Northern Health’s Emergency Management team is working hard to make sure the North is prepared for possible future fire seasons.

Using “lessons learned” from the 2017 and 2018 wildfires, they’ve created evacuation guides for hospitals, care homes, and other Northern Health facilities, and they’re reviewing and updating emergency response plans as well.

They’re also working with the City of Prince George on a mock evacuation exercise for May 2019 — this will be an annual event.

As well, they’re collaborating with the provincial emergency group and Interior Health on “mutual aid” arrangements to use each other’s emergency preparedness staff if needed.

Finally, Northern Health is taking part in “spring readiness” forums for emergency decision makers throughout the North, with the aim of ensuring everyone’s safety in an emergency.

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

Share

A 5-minute drill with Health Emergency Management

Image sharing the definition of a 5 minute drill.

How would you respond in an emergency? Tough one to answer, isn’t it, especially as emergencies can vary so much. Many of us probably remember doing fire or earthquake drills in elementary school, but even though emergencies can still happen at any moment, we don’t practice what to do that often. In a healthcare setting, there are so many different types of emergencies, threats, and risks that can occur on a daily basis. We write procedures and response plans for these things, but our Health Emergency Management (HEM) team is taking it further, with their new 5-minute drill.

The 5-minute drill is an exercise, either physically acted out or discussed, that simulates an emergency response plan or process for just a single function or time frame within the first five to 20 minutes of an emergency.

“This is an important activity for hospital staff to participate in so that we’re prepared in the event of an emergency, to discover how we’re not prepared, and to take away some of the assumptions of who should be doing what,” says Jana Hargreaves, Northern Health Coordinator, Health Emergency Management BC. “The benefit of doing these in this format is that it’s less taxing on staff as far as shift coverage, time constraints, and they can be done on duty with minimal impacts to staffing.”

The different kinds of codes to practice with 5 minute drills.

Drills are usually focused around the different hospital emergency codes, such as code red (fire), code orange (disaster or mass casualties), or code black (bomb threat), which according to Jana is “the most fun because it’s easiest to act out with a small group.”

The Northern Health (NH) HEM team has been engaging with site champions (staff volunteers) at NH sites to help roll out these drills since last May. So far, Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace, Wrinch Memorial Hospital in Hazelton, and the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George have been practicing the drills on a regular basis.

“We have been receiving some excellent feedback that the drills are a way to ‘start the discussion’ about emergency codes that are in place in our facilities,” says Jana.

The HEM team plans on releasing new sets of each year, with the next being slated for May 2019. Some hospitals have taken the templates Jana has made and created their own 5-minute drills.

If your Northern Health site wants to run their own 5-minute drill, contact the HEM team at HEMBC@northernhealth.ca.

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of digital communications and public engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She manages NH's content channels, including social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots, or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care. (NH Blog Admin)

Share