Safety is an important aspect of all situations, especially in the workplace. Here at the Community Health Center, making sure all staff and patients are safe from any possible incident is promoted, practiced and considered a creative, collaborative effort. We have a site safety committee and chair at each of our locations who in addition to their regular position, ensure that all of our drills are tested on a quarterly basis. Medical, fire, patient, and disaster emergencies are on the list of incidents that can and do happen in a healthcare setting. The most recent drill that was tested at our Meriden site focused on a tornado emergency which is something that you may not think is necessary in Connecticut but our safety committee will be the first to say “we have to be ready for anything that comes our way.” The purpose of holding these drills are to prepare for real life situations which could possibly include a siren, Dorothy, Toto, and Glinda, the good witch.
The drill started when participating safety staff made an announcement that there was going to be a tornado and an actual warning siren was played over the intercom. Staff was instructed to assist patients to the proper location that should be fully protected by walls and windowless. The next step is making sure everyone participating knew to get low to the ground and cover their heads with their hands. Once the site was cleared with the proper protocol, staff and patients were reassured it was a drill and allowed to return to their normal locations.
A unique way that the safety team rallied staff participation and an enthusiastic response to the tornado warning was to add role playing. The idea was to use a Wizard of OZ theme (which does go hand in hand with a tornado!). Regina Longinotti, APRN, played the role of Dorothy and carried a basket with Toto the dog in it. Two other drill facilitators, Courtney Tarasiewicz & Melanie Wilde who are site safety committee chairs also dressed up as the good and bad witches from OZ. Courtney Tarasiewicz, who held a large role in planning the tornado drill mentioned the format of our safety procedures with staff and why it’s necessary to promote safety at all times. “As a safety committee member, I believe we need to work on getting every staff member involved with these drills and make sure everyone becomes comfortable with all roles. Planning different drills can reassure staff members and patients that their safety is our priority. Choosing these drills are very important for safety committee members who have a responsibility to establish the different drill plots, safety committees, and safety officers at each of our sites.”
Courtney also stated “Overall, planning and working on these drills can be fun and challenging. We know how important the safety of our patients and staff is and with these drills and multiple practice attempts, it will feel more relaxing for everyone involved when it becomes a real life situation, not just a drill.” The goal of CHC’s safety team is to practice what they preach, “Being prepared is the key to everything.” Adding a bit of fun to a basic tornado drill can help ease nerves, promote an open mind and give participants another factor to be aware of in their surroundings during a potentially frantic time. Various drills are held at our sites every three months and can range from a weather emergency, patient altercation or even a missing child. This is just another way to highlight our staff that go above and beyond to ensure a high quality of care for both employees and patients.