MAGNET MONDAY: The NICU vs. Hurricane Sandy
During Hurricane Sandy, pictures of its effects were all over the internet. Among nurses, an image that hit close to home was that of a NICU nurse manually ventilating an infant while carrying him down nine flights of stairs during the evacuation of a New York hospital.
Here at AAMC, we have policies and procedures in place for unit evacuations, and in some anticipated weather-related emergencies the Command Center is activated. When Sandy came through Annapolis, the NICU was ready.
Luckily, if we had to evacuate our NICU, we would only have to go down one flight of steps, while our Step Down unit is on the first floor. However, we were not going to take any chances. Cathy Hughes, RRT, gathered extra respiratory equipment to move vapotherm patients. Donna Trenz, RN, prepared zip lock baggies with the patient’s room number, a copy of the evacuation policy, face sheet, and a card with family contact information in case they were staying at a hotel or somewhere other than their home. When power went to the back-up generator, a patient summary was also added to the bag. That evening, Cindy Mueller, RN, marked all the empty patient rooms with an “Empty” sign. Babies were moved away from windows, with plans made to transfer them to interior rooms that didn’t have windows, if necessary.
We had time to prepare for the hurricane, but some disasters are unexpected. I was working in the NICU during 9/11, reassuring families that their babies were okay, while I wondered how my own family was doing at home. I also worked during the earthquake that shook AAMC last year. Unsure why I felt the building shaking, I covered my patient with my body, juggling in my mind how to get him out of the building with his ventilator, IVs, and drips.
At home, we stock up on toilet paper, milk, bread and eggs, and clean out grocery stores in preparation for emergencies. On your unit, how will you respond in an emergency? If you have questions, contact your Clinical Director. -Chona Hamrock, RNC-NIC