A Communications Drill

There was an emergency drill in Virginia this weekend, which simulated a group of boy scouts stuck at about 5,000 feet as the weather deteriorated. (Virginia has mountains as well as seashore). This was complicated with widespread power loss in the same area. Although the “event” was several hundred miles away from my location, the entire state participated.

In my years in healthcare, many times I’d see disaster planning and disaster drills with a lot of “wishology.” People would believe (wish) that power would stay on, and think that they had to budget for power. What needs to be kept operating? What should be shut down? Obviously the surgical facilities and patients with respirators need power. The televisions and the fancy fountain in the lobby—not so much.

The same is true about communications. I remember one hospital telling me (when the technology was new) that they had a satellite telephone.

“Great,” I replied. “Who are you going to call?”

They hadn’t thought about that.

In this drill, we focused on the fact that if the Red Cross needed cots, that meant they had used all they could get their hands on—their stock, the next few counties’ stock, etc. The only place to get more cots was from a distant location. The same held true for hospitals; if they needed supplies, or even doctors, they too had used up all the local resources. Although we were using ham radio as the means to tie the state together, it was really less about radio and more about the ability to convey a message to someone who can respond to it, and getting a response.

Imagine if that was what drove communications at home, work, on the television, etc. It might be better for everybody.

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