Working together during a community crisis

Working together during a community crisis

Moments after the September 24 crash involving a "Ride the Ducks" tour vehicle and a charter bus on the Aurora Bridge in Seattle, UW Medicine physicians and staff at Harborview Medical Center began mobilizing its command center for medical response.

"The Seattle Fire Department told us there was a mass casualty, a collision of some sort," said Anne Newcombe, clinical director of emergency services at the hospital. "We were to expect a large number of patients."

Before patients were even loaded into ambulances, firefighters and paramedics were in communication with Harborview about how many to expect. Right away, communication began with other hospitals to get a snapshot of their capacity and the number of injured patients who could be transferred.

UW Medicine hospitals ended up caring for 39 of the 51 people injured. Harborview cared for 17 seriously injured victims; Northwest Hospital & Medical Center cared for 17 and UW Medical Center cared for five.

Harborview serves as the Disaster Medical Control Center for Seattle and King County. This role takes place within the emergency department in a room stocked with communication equipment: radios, a satellite phone, cell phones, fax, a landline and an online healthcare incident management system (WATrac).

The Center's mission is to minimize the impact of emergencies and disasters to the community through communication, patient distribution and response coordination between first responders, hospitals and other healthcare partners.

During any crisis, Harborview’s focus remains on mobilizing quickly, saving lives and keeping everyone informed. "We prepare and plan for an emergency but the patient and the family doesn't.Their lives have been turned upside down," said Newcombe.