Healthy Living in the North

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

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)


In photos: A look at BC wildfires

For information and resources about wildfires and your health, visit our wildfire information page on the Northern Health website.

A helicopter delivering water for aerial firefighting near Chetwynd in 2017.

Photo provided by Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Operations and Rural Development.

(Above) A helicopter delivering water for aerial firefighting (also known as a helicopter bucket) outside of Chetwynd, BC July 23 2017. To see the wildfires in your area, view the up-to-date map of BC active wildfires.

Wildfire burning near Tete Jaune Cache in 2017.

Photo provided by Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Operations and Rural Development.

(Above) Aerial view of a wildfire 5km east of Tete Jaune Cache (Near McBride). If you see a haze, smell smoke or know of a wildfire in your area, check the current air quality advisories in your area to see whether you should limit your time outdoors.

A BC Wildfire service member working at a blaze outside Williams Lake in 2017.

Photo provided by Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Operations and Rural Development.

(Above) BC Wildfire service member working at a blaze outside of Williams Lake, July 28 2017. For your safety during the wildfire season, check out the wildfire preparedness information page on Emergency info BC.

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.