Healthy Living in the North

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.

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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!

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