Imagine the situation: several inches of ice and wind gusts of up to 45 miles an hour have pummeled western New York. Downed power lines have overwhelmed repair crews and taken out heat sources for thousands of people. Roads in some areas are impassable. Schools, businesses and stores are closed.

How will hospitals and emergency responders react?

This scenario played out in early November as part of WRECKIT2016, the Western Region Emergency Communications Knowledge and Information Test. This was a multi-county, multi-agency exercise to prepare organizations and personnel for emergency events. A weather-related event formed the basis for this simulation, and locally, Bertrand Chaffee Hospital took part.

“Emergency preparedness is something we work on as part of our regular operations,” said Brandon Frank, emergency preparedness coordinator. “Walking through a realistic scenario with other organizations in the region helps us to refine our plans and raise questions when we’re not in the middle of an emergency.”

Starting with mock weather reports early in the week, the Bertrand Chaffee Hospital team assessed how its departments would prepare in terms of supplies, staffing and other arrangements to insure the safety and care of patients and “worried well.”

“A great part of the exercise is that we were able to ask the question, ‘what if?,’” continued Frank. “Having those answers and reinforcing how decisions are made in an emergency is valuable for all types of events, especially as we approach the winter weather season.”