Emergency personnel prepared early for storm

Feb. 14, 2014 @ 05:11 AM

In the midst of one of the strongest winter storms to hit Rutherford County in recent memory, one key entity attempted to prepare ahead of time for snow and ice.

Matt Webber, spokesman for Rutherford Regional Health System (RRHS), said hospital staff started working on plans for dealing with the winter weather days before the storm hit.

"On Monday and Tuesday, the RRHS senior team and department leaders began meeting to ensure the operations of the medical center in particular would not be interrupted," Webber said.

Part of that preparation was to place the hospital under a "Code Orange" protocol which is the internal code for "all hands on deck."

"A Tuesday afternoon meeting with all leaders led by CEO Cindy Buck carefully detailed each department's responsibilities and reaffirmed each leader's role and preparations during the Code Orange timeframe," Webber said.

He said the hospital has a "thorough" policy specifically related to weather emergencies that gives an outline for essential and non-essential personnel to follow.

Part of that policy details departments deemed essential, or those directly impacting patient care, to make arrangements in advance to have adequate staffing for all shifts.

"Arrangements also are made for essential personnel to have overnight accommodations at the medical center, if needed," Webber said.

Webber said patient safety was the first priority in situations like the winter storm that blew through the county Wednesday and Thursday. He added staff follow strict instructions about relieving one another throughout their shifts.

"Patient care areas also may share qualified personnel if needed so that all caregivers remain well-rested," Webber said.

As for RRHS-owned clinics around the county, Webber said non-urgent appointments were postponed Wednesday for times later in the week to avoid unnecessary travel by patients.

"Physician practices and facilities that had patients and services scheduled for Wednesday and beyond began calling patients earlier in the week to either re-schedule non-urgent appointments or allow those patients to come in well before the winter weather began," Webber said.

Rutherford County officials shut down all operations with the exception of emergency personnel Thursday. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department maintained operations through the day.

Rutherford County Sheriff Chris Francis said the county utilized its six four-wheel drive vehicles for road patrol. He also said the county put plans in place if any additional staff was required to deal with road conditions.

"We do have extra staff ready for communications and we are prepared if we need any additional road deputies," Francis said.