Healthcare technology companies were among the first to respond to New York City’s SOS on Sept. 11, 2001, pumping products and human resources into rescue efforts at Ground Zero. Since then, companies have been assessing their ability to react to disaster. Some consider themselves ready; others question whether it’s possible to plan for every potential catastrophe. Is your company ready to answer the call?
The collective response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, highlighted the country’s strength and its willingness to pull together in the face of tragedy. New York City hospitals, the healthcare institutions most affected by the tragedy, learned that they could rely on manufacturers and rental companies for the equipment and the support needed in the face of an attack once considered unimaginable. In short order, equipment manufacturers and rental companies were there — with countless employees volunteering to work through the night to get equipment to New York State’s most famous city. Six months later, companies are assessing their preparedness, if a ‘next time’ does, indeed, occur.
Some companies recognize that they are quite prepared for a next time and have instituted few changes. In fact, many of the systems and policies that can help a company effectively respond to a disaster are just plain good for business, anyway. Others look at the huge spectrum of possible disaster scenarios, from terrorist attacks to anthrax outbreaks and natural events, and question whether they have the experience to handle every potential catastrophe.
Using 9/11 as a Guide
Hill-Rom Company (Batesville, Ind.) launched a fairly massive effort to get equipment to New York City on Sept. 11. Within an hour of the first attack, the company fielded calls from the city’s hospitals. The company, meanwhile, contacted the New York Hospital Association to try to assess the need for products. Brad Longstreth, director of North American sales development for Hill-Rom, says, “We knew we needed to get as many burn products as we could out to the hospitals.” The company placed calls to its service centers, dispatching a loaded truck from its Long Island center.
Getting into the city, where access was restricted, proved to be the next hurdle. A Hill-Rom government relations official, who contacted the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and local police departments, was able to get the New York Hospital Association to fax a letter stating that the truck was carrying life-saving medical equipment. That fax served as a pass into the city.
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