Mac's Safety Space: Ain’t nothing like the real thing

By Steve MacArthur, Hospital Safety Consultant

Even those of you who know most of my back story might not necessarily have made the connection (there are certainly ample clues on LinkedIn), but my first 20-plus years in healthcare were spent working at an acute care hospital in Brockton, Massachusetts—recently the scene of a fairly significant event that resulted in the entire facility being evacuated in the wake of the smoky fire in an electrical room.

As part of the response efforts, both normal and emergency power had to be disrupted (the primary impetus for the evacuation), so those planning sessions involving escalating scenarios can have real-world implications. I am happy (and proud of my “alma mater”) to say that there were no injuries as the result of the fire and ensuing evacuation (some of the local news reports made things seem much more chaotic than was the actual case).

Hospitals, with good reason, don’t often get a chance to practice evacuation (and we’ve been practicing influx to a fair degree over the past couple of years), but the amount of coordination with local emergency management folks has significantly improved over time (not that it was ever really less than very good).

As a somewhat personal side note to this event, my wife had retired the previous Friday after 40-plus years of service as a nurse and nurse leader—she went in to help during the evacuation (brava!). I know that recovery can be a long and winding road, but I have complete faith in the community to put things back to right.

But the one constant through all these types of events is that it is impossible to over estimate the importance of good working relationships, coordination and communications with local and regional emergency management resources. If everyone is on the same page, it makes for a much smoother response.

There are always going to be “hiccups” during any large-scale emergency (that’s part of what makes it an emergency—there’s really no emergency in business as usual), but a unified incident command makes all the difference.

A couple of short items to close out this week:

  • I don’t know that you folks have cause to deal with rental cars very often, but I was out in Colorado recently on a very cold day—so cold that the usual washing of rental cars before putting them back into service could not be completed. In general, I suppose anyone who lives in colder areas gets used to the coating of road salt/dirt/grime that can develop over the course of the winter months, but one item that can be compromised over time is the back-up camera (pretty much every rental I’ve had in the recent past has had them).  I don’t use the camera so much on my own car because I “know” the sightlines, etc., so I can use the rear and side-view mirrors, but when I’m in a strange car, I tend to rely on the camera a little bit. At any rate, for this particular rental, I noticed that the camera view was almost completely obscured, which was kind of a pain when backing into a parking space. Upon reflection, I decided to try using one of the many thousands of alcohol wipes I have accumulated over the past couple of years and found that I was able to do a really good job of cleaning the camera lens and restore that visual aid. I don’t know if that constitutes a life hack, but I thought it was a pretty cool thing.
  • While I don’t know that everything has a specific use, I am an enormous fan of “stuff”—it can be almost any subject. To a fair degree, I like nothing better than to find out something I didn’t know—a song or piece of music I’d never heard before, an author I’ve never heard of (never mind read), etc. One of the things that I’ve bumped into over the last little while is the Atlas Obscura—there’s a little bit of something for everyone (or at least everyone I’d want to call friend). I signed up for the daily e-mail notifications and I have encountered more rabbit holes of discovery than I can count. Again, not sure how useful it all is in the long run, but so cool to discover—maybe you’ll be enthralled as well:

About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with Chartis Clinical Quality Solutions (formerly known as The Greeley Company) in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Healthcare Safety Leader. Contact Steve at