Why Boston Was Ready; the Vital Nature of Crisis Preparedness

The recent events at the Boston Marathon highlighted the integral role that hospitals play when there are mass-casualties in the communities they serve.  Despite high numbers of severely injured patients and the unexpected horror that accompanied the bombings on April 15, Boston’s hospitals responded with precision that can only be explained by one factor – they were prepared.

Have a Plan

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s consistent communications response to the events in Boston proved that a strong emergency communication plan is essential.  In a recent ragan.com piece, Jerry Berger, Director of Media Relations at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, credits communications’ role in the hospital’s emergency response plan with his team’s ability to provide timely information around the clock while treating both the victims and the suspect.  Despite the unrelenting news cycle, the hospital had the communications protocol in place to keep its team moving.

Practice for the Real Thing

Boston’s hospitals may have appeared to be experienced with events like the bombing, because in a way, they were.  Many of the hospitals reportedly rehearsed for events like that at the marathon, just in case the unthinkable occurred.  Dr. Paul Biddinger, Chief of Division of Emergency Preparedness at Massachusetts General Hospital pointed out in a recent NPR story that his team hoped never to exercise the skills learned in their numerous emergency response drills, but the practice proved essential in successfully treating the influx of injured patients they received on the day of the marathon.

Leverage Social Media

Social media provides a quick and efficient vehicle to share up-to-the-minute information when emergencies occur.  A recent Health Leaders Media piece pointed out that the three Boston hospitals that received the bulk of the injured patients utilized Facebook on a continual basis to share details about patient levels, dispel misinformation and thank their supporters.  Harnessing social media allowed the hospitals to lead the conversation about the crisis, rather than having to chase the story.  Monitoring social media also allowed hospital staff to learn first-hand from law enforcement what was real and what was rumor, which is important in a crisis situation.

Lessons Learned

There is no doubt that one of our Districts will face a significant crisis, either a natural disaster or a different type of mass-casualty incident. Having a current crisis communication plan in place is a wise and necessary part of business operations.

Guest Blog post by Edelman.  Contact the Edelman team with questions.

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