Hospital directors and department heads exchange real-time data as police, fire and other emergency personnel direct responders and watch the scene unfold on an array of large, high-definition screens.
This was one possible scenario laid out by officials giving a tour of a new emergency command center unveiled Friday. The room is part of the Stout Conference Center in the Washington Health System hospital building.
Brook Ward, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Washington Health System, said one of the rooms was built to act as a sophisticated regional emergency command center.
“In the case of fires, floods, tornadoes or other emergency scenarios, once we get into that room we can communicate electronically with all city and county EMS, fire and police,” Ward said. Ward said hospital information like bed and personnel availability could be integrated with the county’s information system. Previously, staff members had to take everything out of an existing conference center before rolling in the large computerized equipment and television screens needed to set up a temporary command – a process that could take over an hour.
“Patients may not receive care in the conference center,” said president and CEO of Washington Health System Gary Weinstein, “but what goes on in the Stout center will benefit our patients and our community in a number of ways …
“In this day, when we read about more and more natural and manmade disasters, it’s important to remember hospitals are in the middle of each of those responses.”
Rich Mahoney, executive director of the Washington Hospital Foundation, said the space was designed to have the capacity to take over as a regional incident command if something were to happen to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s designated center in Pittsburgh.
In addition to the emergency response room, the Stout Conference Center features a brand new boardroom complete with a wide array of modern amenities. The acoustics of the room were amplified with microphones embedded into the table and sound boosting tile in the ceiling. A large projection TV hangs at the head of the 30-seat cherry wood table equipped with computer integration ports. A third of the seats are decked out with iPads furnished by the hospital.
Two other conference centers offer meeting space for staffers, something officials said the hospital was in dire need of before the renovation.
The new center was built into an area of the hospital that had stayed unfinished after a recent expansion in 2009. The conference center was named after the Stout family, who provided the initial financial support for the project.
William Stout, foundation board chair, said the new center was part of a rebranding effort that started with the renaming of the hospital earlier this year. He said privately funded ventures would be vital to medicine moving forward.
“We are at a critical crossroads in the health-care equation,” Stout said. “There remains a shortfall in meeting the expectations of our stakeholders. This gap can and must be filled by voluntary philanthropy by our citizens.”