Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The GBMC Family Rises to the Occasion….Again

Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast with a vengeance on Monday and Tuesday but our patients got the care they needed because of the dedication of our people. I was the Administrator on Call, so with my colleagues from our Critical Incident Team D, and with the able support of Dan Tesch and Michele Tauson, who have overseen the creation of an emergency plan second to none, we ran the command center throughout the storm.

Inside the Hospital Command Center during Hurricane Sandy operations.
We went on our “Code Yellow” on Monday at 11:30 a.m.  Code Yellow requires people to stay at GBMC until they are released by their supervisor. We do not take this decision lightly. I know that our staff would prefer to be with their families during a weather emergency (I was worried about a poplar falling on our house with my family inside) but it is our duty to care for and protect our patients. So, many nurses, technicians, physicians, other clinicians, housekeepers, food service workers, patient access representatives and administrative and support staff of all kinds stayed with us at GBMC and at our two Gilchrist Hospice Inpatient Units in Towson and Howard County from Monday until we lifted Code Yellow at 8:30 am on Tuesday. Since the MTA buses were shut down early on Monday and didn’t restart until Tuesday afternoon, many of our staff who normally take the bus had to find other ways to get to work. I am particularly grateful to them for their perseverance and commitment to our patients and to GBMC.

We dealt with storm related issues as they came up. Our wonderful, almost 50-year-old hospital has a flat roof and we had some leaks. The wind wreaks havoc with some areas, allowing water into cracks that are not normally there. The entrance to Unit 45 had a leak that went back into a staff locker room. We will fix these leaks when the weather permits. We were very lucky that we did not lose power. We have significantly increased our ability to generate power over the last two years but we still have a few areas, like our central sterile supply department, that are not on backup power. Since the power did not go out, this was not an issue.

We distributed cots and gave people meal tickets. I was a Boy Scout and I used to enjoy camping but I am glad that I only had to sleep on a cot for one night. Since we had power, we watched the storm reports on television. I worried about my son in New York City, as his apartment is not far from the areas where the storm surge caused flooding and the devastating damage to the subway system and the tunnels. When I heard that the power was turned off to his neighborhood to avoid a catastrophic meltdown of the power generating capability from water in the plant, I got a little more nervous. (As of the writing of this blog he is fine but the power is still off. He is getting extra exercise with the transit system still shut down!)

It was truly eerie on Tuesday morning at 7 am in the main lobby and in our main corridors. You could hear a pin drop. Usually at that hour on a weekday, there is significant hustle and bustle. Things were so quiet because for the safety of patients and staff, we had closed our outpatient clinics and services. The Emergency Department, however, was going full speed ahead. Since most physician offices were closed, anyone who could get in and needed to be seen came to the Emergency Department.  As usual, our fantastic staff just did their jobs and met everyone’s needs.   

Our thoughts and prayers are with Maryland’s shoreline hospitals that did not fare as well as we did and of course with people up and down the East Coast who were harmed by the storm, lost loved ones or who had devastating property damage. I grew up in New Jersey and used to go to Seaside Heights in the summer. It is so sad to see the boardwalk and so many homes destroyed. We Americans, the descendants of people who built this country often under adversity, are a resilient lot. I have no doubt that we will rebuild what has been lost. 

As for the GBMC family, we showed once again that we know what our mission is and we accomplished it again. To my colleagues at GBMC, I am very grateful to you for a job well done!

Finally, a reminder that GBMC offers, free to all staff, text-based notification of emergencies / critical incidents via Code Messaging. More than 200 staff members were added to our list in the days before Hurricane Sandy.  If you are not yet on the list, email your first and last name, cell phone number and provider (i.e. Sprint, AT&T, Verizon) to  in Emergency Management and you will be added to the system. 


  1. I was one of the employees who chose not to venture into work at the beginning of Hurricane Sandy. I live about 28 miles away and drive I 83 . They were closing bridges due to the winds of the storm. I understand I get an occurance for not coming in and using a vacation day . Next time I will bear the weather and hope I get to work and home safely over the bridges and overpasses.

    very unhappy

    1. Thank you, anonymous.

      Our procedure exists to assure that we have adequate staff to care for our patients. Healthcare workers, police and firemen do take extra risks to care for others.

      On Monday, before the storm hit, we believe that the travel was reasonable and we are grateful for the staff who came in and stayed because during the height of the storm it was unsafe to travel.

  2. I truly believe your wonderful team over reacted. This storm did not come up the Bay. FEMA had a partial response not a full response and little to this area. We could have gotten to and from quite easily as we were told by the night shift who came in and had no issue and the Tuesday morning day shift who came in without issues. I feel we were held hostage when we did not need to be. My beach house in DE took the brunt of the storm and is partially destroyed. Last I looked we lived in MD not DE or NJ or NY. Save the drama for the snow storms. This was uncalled for. Really really overdone and drama not needed. This makes staff not want to be team players when we knew we could get home, get a good nights sleep and come back instead of being completely wiped out by 1600 on Tuesday and hoping that we made it through without causing an incident with the patients. You put them at more risk making us stay with exhausted run down nurses. Great job in making your response team look like idiots

    1. Anonymous, your statements show hindsight bias. Hindsight bias occurs when one judges the decision of another knowing the outcome of the decision when the actual decision-maker could not know what was going to happen.

      You now see that GBMC did not take the brunt of the storm and that our county had minimal damage from the storm. When I made the decision to go on code yellow I believed that the chances of more severe damage and harm to others was greater than it turned out to be. I stand by my decision and I am grateful for the excellent planning of our team and I am happy that we did not have more damage and that none of our people was harmed. We will never know, but I bet you would have made the decision to go on code yellow had you been in my position.

    2. Thank you for thinking I do not know what hindsight bias is. So glad you think I am unaware of what you are talking about and thank you for talking down to me. This again shows what you think of the staff the does the brunt of the work and takes the brunt of your decisions. I would not have made the decision you made considering that most of the staff made it in and you made the decision so early in the process. My major may be nursing but my minor is in emergency response management. Not everyone in that room is the experts they believe themselves to be. Did anyone even speak to a FEMA representative to see where they were concentrating their response? If you did you would have found them in NJ and NY. So sad you think the staff is so dumb

  3. I was listening to the governor of Maryland and he was telling people to stay off the roads due to the coming storm. Luckily up where I live we had no trees down but did have many streams overflow and covering the roads, where alternate roads had to be taken. I would rather be safe than sorry. Normaly I would venture into work but due to the flooded roads I chose not to.

  4. I can see both sides of this issue. The only thing is other hospitals in the area let their staff leave and had no issues. Monday morning quarterbacking is always annoying but in this case I can see the point. We give up certain things when we become nurses-holidays with our families and being able to just stay home during storms. I have been doing this for a long time and have done many sleepovers at GBMC. I would not have liked to have slept over on Monday as there was no reason to. If staff is willing to pay for a local hotel room close to the hospital is that an option instead of cots? I think the lack of privacy, showers and proper sleeping accomodations may be part of the issue. GBMC does it's best but sleeping on a cot or stretcher is next to impossible then working another 12 hours is dangerous to the patient. There needs to be some give and take not just the GBMC way or the highway.

  5. To the bedside staff in general - when you choose not to come to work early to wait for your shift to start (when roads are passable), you are telling your colleagues that you are more important than they are. If you choose to live far from GBMC, that's for you to deal with. You don't get special treatment because of it. The rest of us braved wind and rain to get here. Why couldn't you?


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