In this section:
Our business continuity, safety, security and emergency management leaders oversee planning and execution. They assess potential risks, review and test plans, and train managers on incident management principles and business continuity. This effort entails a continuous cycle of planning, training, preparation, refinement and coordination within our system and with other community leaders, first responders, suppliers, essential service providers and more.
Texas Health’s comprehensive business continuity plans consider the supplies, equipment, IT support staff and other resources we will need to keep our doors open and protect and care for our employees, consumers and patients in times of need. To mitigate risks, we assess vulnerabilities, develop prevention and response strategies, train teams to respond when issues arise, and continually learn from and refine our practices.
- Initiated our Hospital Channel Incident Command during COVID-19 surges to allow hospital and system leaders to address patient flow, supply chain and staffing challenges.
- Updated staff and visitor exposure and symptom screening to prevent transmission of the virus and modified visitation guidelines to limit the spread from asymptomatic individuals.
Texas Health uses the National Incident Management System framework to manage threats and hazards and incorporates the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s training resources in continuity and emergency response planning. We refine or create new policies and plans to guide our emergency management and training programs.
To fortify our emergency response systems, we conduct internal drills and participate in communication exercises with area hospitals, emergency responders and other authorities. Our protocols allow us to communicate, decontaminate, evacuate and track patients quickly.
- Kept all Texas Health hospitals open during a historic winter storm that left millions of Texans without power and clean drinking water. While some patients were briefly diverted to other hospitals due to loss of power and water, none were evacuated. This was due to the advanced preparation by our business continuity and emergency management teams and the tireless work of building engineers, clinical teams and other essential staff.
- Standardized our systemwide emergency operation plans, hazard vulnerability analysis and after-action reports to drive consistency in processes, protocols and responses across the system.
Snapshot: Remaining Strong in an Unprecedented Storm
Days before a historic winter storm hit Texas early in 2021 – leaving 2.5 million people without power and heat and 1 million without clean water – our emergency management team monitored forecasts, implemented mitigation and emergency response plans and activated systemwide incident command.
Frigid temperatures caused pipes to break, the power grid to fail, contaminated water supplies and delayed vital shipments of equipment, supplies, food and other essentials. System and hospital leaders met continuously to discuss impacts and needs and monitor the availability of supplies to allocate incoming resources to those with the most need. We launched an internal microsite to keep teams informed of resources, needs and impacts.
Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital and Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Alliance were without water, impacting boilers, plumbing, kitchens and more. Local fire departments trucked in water, which was used to start boilers and produce heat. Building engineers worked nonstop to make repairs and provide backup power. Employees formed a bucket brigade to fill toilets with enough water for flushing. Portable handwashing machines and toilets were brought in to free up water for patient needs.
In addition to these hospitals, building engineers, security teams, caregivers and other essential staff at our hospitals and Texas Health Physicians Group practices slept in vacant beds, emergency cots or nearby hotels to provide care to people in need. Texas Health provided EAP assistance, food and other support to these employees. As a result of all these efforts, all Texas Health hospitals remained open, and no patients were evacuated. Only a few hospitals were on divert status briefly.
“The level of collaboration, agility, mindfulness, and vibrancy was astounding,” said Clint Abernathy, Texas Health Alliance president. “It’s so humbling to work with such a high-performing team. Their tenacity to serve is second to none.”