During the recent emergency drill at Penn Highlands Tyrone employees served as injured patients to test the response by hospital staff and emergency services personnel to a simulated fire in the building.

Penn Highlands Healthcare Stages Disaster Drills

At Penn Highlands Healthcare patient safety and security are key priorities at each of its hospitals, outpatient facilities and residential living communities. Recently the health system conducted disaster drills at Penn Highlands Brookville and Penn Highlands Tyrone to put its emergency response plans to the test.

“Regulatory agencies require us to test our Emergency Operations Plans at least twice annually either through functional or full-scale exercises or actual events,” explained Aaron Cicon, Director of Emergency Preparedness and Planning at Penn Highlands Healthcare. “These drills, which are a cooperative effort between the Penn Highlands staff and emergency services personnel, provide an excellent opportunity for our team to coordinate responses to many different crisis scenarios so that we are adequately prepared in the event that a real crisis should occur.”

Penn Highlands Brookville

On October 25, 2022, representatives from Penn Highlands Brookville staged a disaster drill in the Medical Office Building to test their response to an active shooter on the hospital grounds and the communication between buildings.

“It is always good to be prepared but it is better to be ready for any event,” explained Elizabeth Keth, RN, BSN, Organizational Performance Improvement/Patient Safety Officer/Safety Officer at Penn Highlands Brookville.

One month prior to the event, the Penn Highlands Brookville staff received a copy of the Active Shooter policy and an educational video that outlined procedures to follow in an active shooter situation. Employees were encouraged to review the materials and familiarize themselves with their environment such as escape routes, places to hide and what to page to alert other staff of the situation.

“The drill provided an excellent opportunity to measure response times and the effectiveness of communications,” said Ms. Keth. “In addition, it helped reinforce the procedures that must be followed to keep our patients, visitors and staff safe in an active shooter situation.”

Penn Highlands Tyrone

On October 17, 2022, the staff at Penn Highlands Tyrone tested its emergency management response by staging a drill that involved a simulated fire scenario in the hospital’s Medical/Surgical Unit Waiting Room. The hospital staff, in conjunction with the Hookies Fire Company and Bald Eagle Volunteer Fire Company, conducted the drill to test their procedures and practice their response to a fire in the facility.

With staff playing the role of patients during the drill, the fire alarm was activated and 9-1-1 was contacted. The hospital staff followed policies and procedures — particularly the evacuation plan — to move patients to safety while the fire crews acted to distinguish the fire. Some “patients” were taken to the Emergency Department for diagnosis, treatment or transfer.

“The staff at Penn Highlands Tyrone was incredible,” said Mr. Cicon. “An emergency drill is always a learning experience.”