COVID-19 Incident Command Center: 100 Days and Counting!
In March, with the rise of COVID-19, the world faced an unprecedented crisis that required an unprecedented response. And Cook Children’s, as a system, did just that with the activation of our Incident Command Center.
When this crisis unexpectedly presented itself, the luxury of time was not in the cards. That’s why preparedness and being poised to spring into action was essential, and the reason our Emergency Management Committee (EMC)* conducts drills and maps out response plans for a variety of scenarios throughout the year.
As of today, June 23, 2020, the Command Center has been in place for 100 days! Can you believe it? That’s 100 days of managing a disaster with skillful adaptability, based upon the knowledge at hand and consideration for what lies ahead.
So what sets this current situation apart from previous crises, such as Ebola in 2016, and H1N1 in 2009? Director of Environmental Safety and Emergency Management Kaysey Pollan said, “When the Command Center was activated in the past, it’s only been needed for a defined timeframe with a hard stop or end date in sight. When that end date arrived, we could then return to life as it was before the disaster… you know, get back to normal.”
That’s not the case with COVID-19. Cook Children’s, like the rest of the world, is adapting to a “new normal” of not only caring for our patients and their families, but living our own lives differently. The uniqueness of these circumstances goes beyond the long-term sustainability of 100 days and counting for the Command Center.
Pollan said, “This has been a true system-wide response and required collaboration beyond our normal command center structure. The decisions made in the Command Center around new policies and procedures related to COVID-19 affect ALL employees, families, patients and visitors. The changes touch the medical center, our urgent care, specialty and primary care clinics, and everyone in-between.”
Given the vastly different operations throughout the system, we simply could not apply the universal guidelines offered by the CDC and expect that to be enough. Using the ever-evolving federal guidelines as guidance, representatives from across the system had a voice at the Command Center table, and helped make the necessary decisions that impacted their teams and patients.
This level of involvement and coordination from those across the system is evidence that Cook Children’s is truly integrated and connected.
Pollan explained, “A prime example of how intertwined we are is the implementation of drive through testing. This was effectively rolled out thanks to a coordinated effort by CCPN and the Medical Center because a new testing referral process was necessary between the primary care clinics and the Medical Center.”
Despite the structure being in place for such a long time, the members of the Command Center team have remained committed to managing this crisis, even though that has meant 24/7 availability for calls and emails to ensure questions are fielded and guidance is provided in real-time to employees and physicians.
Pollan shared, “I am so appreciative of every member of the committee because they have all made a significant impact throughout this event. But I must recognize a handful of individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of this committee:
“Gina Hernandez, director of Nursing Administration, who has been in the Command Center every day since this event began. Her expertise as a key resource, advisor and decision maker has been invaluable.
The role of Incident Commander is not easy and diligent leadership in that role is vital, which is why I must thank our rotating group of Incident Commanders for their dedication and leadership:
- Debbie Boudreaux, AVP
- Stan Davis, COO
- Nick Markham, AVP
- Jack Sosebee, VP
- Brady Gendke and the entire Home Health team for their innovation! They have made thousands of cloth face masks and designed and produced customized face shields for our staff.
- And finally, the Communications team has worked non-stop on behalf of the Command Center to quickly draft and publish all the education that needed to be pushed to staff and the public with a positive attitude and collaborative spirit.
Markham added, “There is another person that has been a constant in regards to each area of the response. That is Kaysey Pollan! She completes daily reporting to the state, seven days a week and works side by side with our nursing group to make sure that we are keeping staff safe and that communication continues to be two-way and consistent. This response has been very difficult to manage, as direction from local, state and national levels changes almost daily. Kaysey has helped to keep those things in perspective while communicating with the outside agencies and other hospitals throughout the pandemic.”
As Cook Children’s continues to collectively navigate through this crisis, we can all take pride in our willingness to stay focused on doing what is needed to keep our patients, families and staff safe and healthy even in the face of uncertainty times.
And the Command Center would like to make one final point on this milestone 100th day: “Masks Up! Please wear your mask at all times and help us keep everyone safe as we continue to fight COVID-19 together!”
*The Emergency Management Committee (EMC) is a multi-disciplinary group comprised of representatives throughout the system. The committee participates in disaster response training throughout the year and takes part in various drills and exercises that prepare them to oversee all disaster response efforts for the organization. Many of the members of the committee have received advanced training from FEMA, Department of Homeland Security, and various local and state emergency management agencies.