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Disaster Management

Lessons From the Frontlines: Preparing Your Healthcare Facility for the Unexpected.

November 14, 2022
Kennedy Peterson

Is your healthcare facility ready for your next crisis?

Though the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be in the rearview, healthcare systems still face rising natural disasters, mass shootings, and other emergencies. Paired with a workforce shortage, it’s more important than ever for healthcare systems to upgrade and prioritize disaster preparedness procedures. When disaster strikes, a well-planned response can make all the difference in keeping staff calm, safe, and aligned toward common goals.

Care providers need to be able to conserve critical time, evaluate resources quickly, and be able to guide patients to safety during times of duress.

Lessons from the Frontlines: A Prominent Payer/Provider in CA

For VectorCare’s partner, Kaiser Permanente, evacuations are far from a distant threat. Kaiser’s Santa Rosa facility faced wildfire evacuations in 2017 and 2019 due to the Tubbs and Kincade wildfires. Both times they used effective logistics planning to mount highly successful evacuations, safely transferring over 130 patients in under two hours.

Don’t wait until a crisis strikes

There’s a reason that Kaiser was able to evacuate their patients 12x faster than other local hospitals: they planned ahead and used a patient care logistics system that could rapidly scale and respond to disasters. While other care teams scrambled to call local ambulance companies, Kaiser was able to smoothly broadcast an alert to their bench of providers, and begin mapping patients to nearby care facilities based on bed availability.

Proper planning was key to their success. Below are FOUR CRITICAL COMPONENTS KAISER RECOMMENDS to refine disaster preparedness procedures:

Launch a Turnkey Command Center

Don’t wait until the alarm sounds to construct a command center. Expect that disasters will occur, and launch a turnkey command center that can be ready for action at any time. After the 2017 Tubbs fire, Kaiser built a single disaster command center at their Oakland headquarters.

Rather than relying on ad-hoc incident command onsite, this center is ready at any time to coordinate multiple emergency responses across any number of locations. This keeps operations centralized and with a more efficient top-down approach.

Activate Command Centers as Soon as Possible

Once a turnkey command center is established, don’t be afraid to activate it as soon as possible. Begin analyzing resources, communicating with nearby facilities, and scoping evacuation procedures long before an official evacuation notice is issued. In an emergency situation, every minute counts.

Prioritize Resource Allocation

How many ambulances are needed to transport patients? What number of beds are open at nearby facilities? Effective disaster response comes down to detailed resource management. Ensure your everyday logistics management system is equipped to scale in an emergency, able to quickly analyze and deploy according to needs.

Take Incremental Action

Prior to mounting a full response, do whatever steps you can to speed up the process. Gather equipment, remind staff of response procedures, transfer non-critical patients, etc. Take small steps as early as possible to speed up the process.

Patient-Care Logistics: The Bedrock of Proper Emergency Response

Patient-care logistics is central to all four of Kaiser’s recommendations. Administrators must be able to quickly analyze and control the flow of all resources from a single, centralized location. When the fires drew close in 2017 and 2019, Kaiser used VectorCare to quickly scale their resources and safely evacuate patients.

Day-to-day, Kaiser uses VectorCare to coordinate patient transportation, at-home testing, and other services for members. When disaster struck, Kaiser used VectorCare to broadcast an emergency alert to their entire network of credentialed transportation providers. Within seconds, ambulance providers could respond and begin dispatching crews to the Santa Rosa facility.

TO QUOTE PHYLLIS STARK, at the time, Regional Continuum of Care Administrator,

“I can’t imagine that the team could have handled this sudden volume, and track where every patient was taken, as gracefully and calmly as they did, if they were still doing things the old way [without Vectorcare].”

Disaster Response Baked into Everyday Operations

VectorCare’s industry-leading patient care logistics software helps team members coordinate daily care as well as quickly respond to any number of facility emergencies. This allows staff to respond to crises using software they already use and are familiar with.

Resource Coordination

The core of VectorCare’s platform is a connection to a network of licensed, credentialed service providers offering any level of service. Healthcare providers can quickly execute whatever patient logistics they need in place during an emergency, including:

  • Requesting bed availability at destination hospitals
  • Scheduling all types of transportation: from a sedan car to flights
  • Launch an MIH program for communities impacted by the disaster in hours
  • DME delivery to temporary relief sites
  • And more….

“Knowing who was in our network, and who we could call on for help, was key to making the plan work.” - Tom Hanenburg

Assemble a team in minutes, not hours. All resource coordination is done through a deep bench of credentialed providers, eliminating liability risk. Tom Hanenburg, Kaiser’s Chief Operating Officer, remarks that “KNOWING WHO WAS IN OUR NETWORK, AND WHO WE COULD CALL ON FOR HELP, WAS KEY TO MAKING THE PLAN WORK.”

Flexible Enough for Any Disaster

Most of the time, disasters are unpredictable. Your response needs to be flexible enough to accommodate the unexpected. A centralized command center can create and deploy a custom workflow with VectorCare in minutes: used by everyone from the administrative team to sedan car drivers.

Reliable Connectivity

In a disaster situation, connectivity can be unreliable. Vectorcare’s HIPAA-compliance SaaS solution can be operated on any web browser, as well as through an iOS app on a smartphone. This allows healthcare teams to adapt and be able to perform disaster response from anywhere. Live status updates and timestamps ensure that every step of the way is accounted for.


After the initial flood of disaster response, only half the work is done. Repatriation can be complicated. In the rush of an evacuation, it may be difficult to track which patient transferred to which facility, medical needs, and ongoing care procedures. Papers get misplaced and not everyone has access to computer monitors.

VectorCare can track a patient’s entire timeline through a disaster response: trace medical needs, provider interactions, location timestamps, and schedule wellness check-ins once patients have returned home.


You never know when the next emergency will strike your facility: plan ahead by establishing a turnkey command center and implement a solution that can quickly coordinate resources no matter the situation.

Want to read more from the Patient Care Logistics Journal? Read how OCHCA used VectorCare to streamline medical transportation for mental health calls.