Emergency Preparedness Center Brings LMA Together

If a storm causes a loss of power, a water main breaks, a major fire or explosion occurs, or any other disaster strikes, the hospitals, colleges and other organizations in the LMA need to be prepared. It might mean an influx of injured patients, responding to a release of hazardous materials, or securing a back-up generator to power essential functions. In an emergency, the Longwood Medical and Academic area Joint Operations Center serves as a central communications and coordination point for 24 LMA institutions.

LMA institutions began working together to coordinate joint emergency preparedness plans more than 15 years ago, following a power outage. MASCO convened meetings with member institutions to develop an area-wide emergency preparedness plan and enable institutions to function with as little disruption as possible. The Joint Operations Center (JOC) was established, and comprehensive systems and procedures were developed that can be used for any event – from terrorist attacks to infrastructure emergencies and severe weather. “Communication is the key,” says Tucker Husband, MASCO’s emergency preparedness and security manager.

Joint Operations Center Coordinates Response
The LMA Joint Operations Center (JOC) is the centerpiece of the area’s emergency preparedness program. The diverse institutions the JOC represents – major teaching hospitals, colleges, research organizations and religious and cultural organizations – make it unique. It serves as a role model in the city and the country.

Information is Essential
The center serves as an information clearinghouse from and to public officials and 24 institutions in the Longwood Medical and Academic area. A disaster stretches resources to unimaginable extremes. Streamlining the communication of reliable and credible information saves precious time; it eliminates the need for emergency officials to initiate separate contacts with each institution.

Shared Resources
Four years ago the collaboration deepened when 14 MASCO members committed to share resources – facilities, equipment and supplies during emergencies. Staff members respond to areas of need by coordinating deployment of available resources. This might mean moving generators or other equipment between institutions, arranging for parking of emergency vehicles on a neighboring institution’s property, or even sheltering employees or students.

“The Joint Operations Center benefits the institutions by providing timely, accurate information and allowing resources to be allocated to areas of need. In an emergency, it’s much better to collaborate than to be an island,” says Husband.

Practice Makes Perfect
The Joint Operations Center is ready-to-go 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2010 the center opened twice. When a large chilled water leak impacted many institutions, center staff coordinated police details and brought in crews to clear ice that formed on area streets. The center opened again when a major MWRA water main serving Boston ruptured. Center staff coordinated news about the break and the resulting boil water order that impacted many institutions.

To ensure that systems are smooth, training sessions are held a few times a year for area emergency management staff. Each institution has a cadre of trained staff, who can be deployed to the center in the event of an emergency. Systems and plans are tested during city-wide disaster drills.

For more information on the LMA Joint Operations Center or emergency preparedness in the LMA contact tucker.husband@masco.harvard.edu.