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CT Hospital was Prepared for Power Plant Explosion

Scott Wallask, for HealthLeaders Media, February 9, 2010

Sunday night's explosion at a power plant in Middletown, CT, brought with it hospital disaster response repercussions.

The explosion—believed to have been caused by some sort of natural gas leak or purge—occurred at the Kleen Energy Plant, which was under construction at the time and not operating, according to office of Middletown Mayor Sebastian N. Giuliano. Contractors were conducting various tests at the site when the explosion rocked the area.

Middlesex Hospital, a 275-bed community hospital in Middletown, was quickly put on alert about a potential mass casualty event, says Jim Hite, the facility's emergency planner and director of safety and security.

The medical center uses the Hospital Incident Command System, more commonly known as HICS (pronounced "hicks"). HICS is a popular incident management setup that uses a series of job action sheets to define staff roles during an emergency response. The job action sheets list specific duties for staff members to observe.

"We all have our established functions and our job action worksheets," says Peg Arico, Middlesex Hospital's manager of public relations and communications. By teaching clinician and support workers the structure of HICS, they have the ability to use it for any type of incident response, Hite says. "Staff training really paid off," he says regarding the success of response efforts.

During off-shifts and weekends, the nursing supervisor on duty at Middlesex Hospital is the designated incident commander. That approach was important because the plant explosion occurred on a Sunday morning during Super Bowl weekend, when many top administrators weren't at the hospital.

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