During Operation Furies, the inter-jurisdictional drill conducted at the Federal Courthouse in Alexandria this past fall, one of the big concerns was coordinated communications. Or, how to crack the terminology barrier in a disaster situation.
One primary link in that survival chain has just received a major boost in its strength and malleability. It is the link that is the most personal in any catastrophic situation — the medical link.
Northern Virginia has taken a significant step in the ongoing process of disaster readiness thanks to a new radio communication system that links 13 hospitals throughout the region. It has been accomplished by Fairfax County providing capacity on their 800 MHz radio to the Northern Virginia Hospital Alliance.
"This radio link is essential for disaster readiness in this area. During the attacks of September 11, phone systems went down, and it became difficult for different hospitals to coordinate their plans of action not just with themselves, but also with fire, police, and emergency medical services," said Dan Hanfling, MD, director, emergency management and disaster medicine, Inova Health System.
"Now during any disaster situation, communications will be constant and immediate," Hanfling added. As a result, the 13 primary health facilities in Northern Virginia can be connected 24/7.
Included in this Alliance are Inova's Alexandria and Mount Vernon hospitals. Since October 2001, the Alliance has been concentrating their efforts to upgrade disaster plans.
IN ADDITION TO THE hospitals in Alexandria and Mount Vernon, the Alliance includes Fauquier, Inova Fairfax and Fair Oaks, Loudoun Hospital Center, Mary Washington, Northern Virginia Community, Potomac, Reston, Virginia Hospital Center-Arlington, and DeWitt Army Community Hospital on Fort Belvoir.
"The medical and hospital community have significant roles in Fairfax County's emergency response planning," said Rod Stalzer, County deputy executive. "Working together to develop a coordinated system is just one example of how collaborative efforts strengthen our ability to respond to emergency events."
Inova Health System has played a major role in treating disaster victims throughout the area with a variety of specialized equipment and specialists. On September 11, 2001, Inova hospitals treated 27 victims of the Pentagon attack. They also administered to two anthrax victims that fall.