Recently, the Knoxville/ East Tennessee Healthcare Coalition sponsored a training with responders from the Joplin tornado event.  With speakers from law enforcement, social media, and pharmacy, unique perspectives were seen. Each presenter spoke on their professional and personal experience, tying their subject expertise in to a community-wide disaster response and recovery event. Regardless of their profession, location, or area of involvement, the effects of the tornado reached everyone. This training highlighted some of the lessons learned and best practices implemented moving forward.

The demands placed upon public safety in responding to this disaster were unique. During Senator Roberts 40 year career, he had been involved in numerous disaster responses, including the eruption of Mt. St. Helen as well as serving as Chief of Police during the Joplin tornado.

Dr. Boyd works as the Director of Pharmacy for Mercy Health System and led the hospital pharmaceutical efforts during the Joplin tornado event.

Rebecca Williams is a social media disaster recovery pioneer. She is managing administrator of Joplin Tornado Info, an interactive Facebook community that was a key resource in the aftermath of the 2011 Joplin tornado. She co-authored “The Use of Social Media for Disaster Recovery” and is co-creator of the Disaster Info Model, a template developed from lessons learned in social media disaster recovery, preparedness and disease mitigation efforts. Rebecca has delivered her unique message to many national conferences. Rebecca is dedicated to promoting whole community disaster recovery infrastructure preparedness, focused on social media in all phases of mitigation, response and recovery.

Some highlights of the training:

  • Immediate response focused on large scale damage, but they quickly learned that the challenge was “death by a million paper cuts” with all the secondary issues that occurred by the devastated infrastructure. Water leaks everywhere, VIPs, security, road damage, and lack of power all contributed to making every task all the more difficult.
  • Four different command posts were established and each one operated under the assumption that they were in the middle of the event because initially, nobody realized how big the event was. Across disciplines, public and private industry came together with the best of what they had to offer. Recovery worked well, because partnerships had already been established, trust created, and everyone stayed in their lane, creating a cohesive approach.¬† Local people were given a place to live and a job to keep them employed. That gave them a reason to stay. The community dug out, dusted off, and helped each other to ensure their community became a better place than it was to begin with.
  • Talent sharing of staff became vital for the hospital and allowed staff to maintain skill set and serve community.
  • First 24 hours were impacted because specific medications were unavailable. Staff axed their way into the medication controlled boxes.
  • Coordinated with DEA when moving pharmacy. National guard escorted pharmaceuticals into the city. Field tent (temp hospital) had no locking door, only zipped sides so security was always a concern. Moved into a stock trailer to get a locking door, this took about 3 weeks.
  • There was a number of regulatory visits from multiple accrediting authorities.
  • A common social medial site for Joplin provided a place for everyone’s collective angst, questions, resources. One site made it easy to find pertinent information.¬†Instead of having to cross reference all the information, it was easier to have all the different entities post their own updates, so each agency/resource were added as admin.
  • Facebook page was instrumental in uniting the community and as the focus shifted from survival to recovery.
Thank you to all our attendees and presenters. Keep a look out on our KET Coalition website for future training events.