Woodward, Okla. —
Various healthcare agencies across Northwest Oklahoma will meet in Woodward Thursday for a conference designed to help them advance their emergency preparedness efforts.
Woodward Regional Hospital (WRH) will be hosting this conference of the Northwest Oklahoma Consortium for Healthcare Agencies Disaster Response (CHADR).
John Brown, WRH facilities director and safety officer, said the hospital wanted to host the conference because "regional emergency preparedness is important."
"We learned after the Woodward tornado last April that it takes a lot of resources and coordination to respond to an emergency like that," Brown said. "So the more we can establish relationships, the better prepared we'll all be for disasters."
The conference is organized by the Regional Medical Response System (RMRS).
Bill Presley is director of the Region 1 RMRS, which includes 18 counties in Western and Northwest Oklahoma as well as the Panhandle.
Presley said one of the main goals of the CHADR conference is to "bring more partners together to plan and work together because in a disaster we all have to work together."
So as part of the conference, he said the participating agencies will learn how to identify what critical resources they might need in a disaster, who might have those resources available and where, and the process of how to obtain those resources.
These resources can be anything from ambulances to electric generators to potable water, he said.
One of the seminars at the workshop will be presented by representatives of Share Medical Center and a convalescent home in Alva, which were left without water for a time following a bad winter storm.
Presley said these representatives from the Alva healthcare agencies will share what they went through in order to help other agencies know what can happen and how they can be better prepared if faced with a similar situation.
"That's another benefit to this conference, the ability to share experiences because these are all lessons learned," he said.
For example, in Alva, they learned about "Hippos," which is a term for large trucks that can transport in potable water to sites who may have lost their regular access for water, he said.
Personnel are another important resource when it comes to disaster response.
That's why another seminar at the conference will focus on the Medical Reserve Corps, which is for volunteers who have skills that might be helpful during a medical crisis.
"But they don't have to be medical volunteers or have medical training," Presley said. "Whatever their talent is, if it's keeping track of things, sweeping floors or emptying bedpans, it all helps, if at the least they help free nurses up to respond to the medical needs."
But beyond helping people identify resources and how to get them, Presley said the conference is also designed to get the healthcare agencies think about when they might need those resources and how they would use the resources to respond in a disaster situation.
"The conference seeks to make these agencies think about what they would do if they were in that position, what if it was you and how would you handle it?" he said.
That's why the conference will also include an hour and a half long session of round table exercises, where participants will be split into groups and presented with different scenarios and discuss how they would respond.
While the conference is targeted toward healthcare agencies such as hospitals, EMS, and long-term care facilities like nursing homes and assisted living, Presley said representatives from emergency response organizations such as the American Red Cross and local Emergency Management offices have also been invited to participate. Because healthcare agencies will have to work with these other entities during a disaster.
"Let's say you have to evacuate a nursing home, the Red Cross could possibly set up a shelter for the residents of the nursing home," Presley said.
Brown said that WRH participated in the first CHADR conference last year in Alva and found that "the biggest benefit was networking."
"We got to build relationships that otherwise we wouldn't have gotten to build," he said.
This is important in this more rural region of the state, Brown said because "when you're so rural and spread out, you've got to know your neighbors when you need help."
Fortunately, he said that plenty of "neighbors" from across the RMRS Region 1 will be attending Thursday's conference.
Brown said about 60 agencies have registered to attend representing a wide range of communities and areas including Okeene, Seiling, Taloga, Fairview, Garfield County, Laverne, Enid, Mooreland, Alva, Alfalfa County, Beaver County, Sayre, Arapaho, Custer County, Woods County and Woodward County.
Presley said conferences like this and the teamwork it helps to develop among agencies within the region is vital as could be seen in the response to the tornados that ravaged areas of Central Oklahoma on Sunday and Monday. During those storms, Presley said that RMRS Region 6 (Oklahoma County), Region 8 (counties around Oklahoma County), and Region 7 (Tulsa County) were activated to be on alert and be ready to implement emergency response plans.
In addition, both he and Brown said that at one point on Sunday the RMRS Region 1, which again is the region that includes Northwest Oklahoma, was prepared to send some ambulances to the Carney area but was called off because there were fortunately not as many injuries as first expected.