No one could have predicted the number and magnitude of the
natural disasters that affected Missouri in 2011. But, such is
the nature of disasters, and that is why planning and
preparedness pays off.
Many hospitals throughout Missouri activated their emergency
operations plans and the hospital command centers because of the
2011 disasters. In situations such as the January blizzard and
the floods in southeast and northwest Missouri, the activation of
both the emergency operations plan (EOP) and incident command
(IC) were by all accounts very successful. There was adequate
notice and time to prepare, and the communication systems were
Although the financial damage for all three events was
substantial, the impact on the health care system was manageable.
As one of the deadliest tornados in American history, the Joplin
tornado caused 161 fatalities and approximately 1,371 injuries.
“It is unlikely that an [emergency operations plan] will ever
provide exact response instructions, but it does provide staff
the critical thinking skills needed to anticipate and respond to
a disaster,” the report states. “Emergency preparedness planning
must not be an exclusive process; all employees and medical staff
must know and understand the EOP. … Plan and exercise together.”
Among the lessons learned in the report, the MHA offers hospitals
the following tips:
Make sure the incident commanding officer and other chiefs
take time to establish operational periods of one to two hours
and stop to review progress. They should also monitor for
unauthorized individuals, such as vendors or media, trying to
enter the hospital.
Assign a public information officer to address the media and
enact the social media strategy. Use the backup grab bags of
pencils, paper and flashlights if the communication systems like
the internal phones fail, and establish a separate hotline for
additional communication with staff.
Use the to-go kits of water, batteries, cell phone chargers,
etc., placed throughout the facility.
Ensure that staff have multiple, proper IDs, and have a plan
for lockdown with immediate security reinforcement or a crowd
The tornado that struck Joplin, MO was a monster by any
definition with winds up to 250 miles an hour and a funnel at
times topping a mile wide. The tornado destroyed fire stations
and a hospital while also killing 160 and injuring around 1,000
Jim Morgan, local EMS medical director had a front-row view of
the event and its aftermath; he distills eight key lessons
learned in this article: