Back to: Clinical Center home page < Profile 2005
Disaster planning and emergency preparedness
Emergency preparedness is increasingly important in health care. In line with
the NIH commitment to preparedness for, and effective responses to, bioterrorism
and other public health emergencies, in 2004 the Clinical Center revised its
emergency preparedness plan and developed a streamlined response template.
It also formed a partnership with the National Naval Medical Center and Suburban
Hospital, focusing on the relative and complementary expertise and resources of the
three neighboring institutions. Dr. Gallin leads the NIH in this partnership between
two government agencies and a private-sector hospital.
On October 21, the Clinical Center participated in a joint drill with its two partners,
to test the partnership’s communications, transportation, and surge capacity. As part
of the exercise, some participants — portraying seriously injured patients, replete with
makeup for mock injuries — were transferred from NNMC across the NIH campus
to Suburban Hospital, which lies just west of NIH across Old Georgetown Road. So
that Suburban could accept the influx of “patients” from NNMC, participants
portraying stable patients were transferred from Suburban to the Clinical Center.
A fleet of fire emergency vehicles from NIH; NNMC; Montgomery County; Naval
Surface Warfare Center, Carderock; Walter Reed Army Medical Center; and Naval
District Washington took part, as obstacles such as simulated car accidents were
cleared and emergency vehicles navigated the necessary routes of access. To launch
the event, more than 40 distinguished guests from the Department of State,
Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, and
other local, state and federal emergency management agencies attended a
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) supports this partnership.
The office of the Secretary provided support by contributing a contingency hospital
with the supplies and infrastructure needed to provide surge capacity for up to 250
patients in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. These efforts capitalize on
the complementary strengths that are essential to an effective regional response to
man-made or natural disasters in the Washington metropolitan area. Dr. Gallin
represents the NIH in emergency preparedness planning for the Department of
Health and Human Services.
Supporting disaster relief in Florida Dr. Gallin also coordinated NIH’s staff
mobilization for disaster relief during the 2004 Florida hurricane season. Hurricane
Frances came ashore near Stuart, Florida, on Saturday, September 4, followed soon
by hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne, disrupting lives and inflicting massive damage.
Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona activated the Commissioned Corps of the
Public Health Service in what might have been the “largest disaster response ever.”
Teams from different agencies and commands, who had not worked together before,
came together from all over the country to provide disaster relief and services. PHS
officers worked with Red Cross volunteers and with staff from the HHS Secretary’s
Emergency Response Team (SERT), Homeland Security, DOD, FEMA, Veterans
Affairs, the Public Health Service, and the USDA Forest Service.
PHS officers working with FEMA trained thousands of volunteers to help out in
Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina, and many NIH nurses,
research nurses, and nurse practitioners traveled south to help out.
“As a civilian in wartime, the best thing you can hear is, ‘We are the Marines, and
we are here to help,’ ” said Dr. Andrew Daigle, one of the senior emergency room
physicians at Pensacola’s Sacred Heart Hospital. “Now I have learned that after a
disaster the best thing you can hear is, ‘We’re the United States Public Health
Service, and we’re here to help.’ ”