Two dates have changed the way we think about planning for disasters: September 11, 2001, for the nation as a whole, and February 20, 2003 (the Station nightclub fire) for Rhode Islanders in particular.
When Rhode Island Hospital opened the Andrew F. Anderson Emergency Center in 2005, it meant dramatic advances in patient care. But it also signaled a leap forward in the hospital's ability to respond to disasters.
Peter Ginaitt, director of emergency preparedness for Lifespan, notes that the emergency center has a large space and efficient flow of patients and vehicles, as well as a dedicated decontamination room with the latest tools and the ability to provide high-level, general patient care.
The Andrew F. Anderson Emergency Center is 51,000 square feet, and provides personalized care, privacy and the ability of patients to keep loved ones close by.
A key component of emergency preparedness is keeping staff safe so that the hospital can continue to function during a disaster. That means protective gear, good planning and buildings that provide the most efficient movement of people and material. The federal and state governments have lent a hand, providing grants to buy equipment such as decontamination tents, respirators, burn carts and protective suits.
Today, hospitals must be ready at a moment's notice to respond to large-scale and mass-casualty events. Our large treatment rooms, with greater visibility and more space to maneuver could mean a lot in a disaster.