The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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November 9, 2012

Two-county task force: ‘We were ready’

— We’re thankful that our region was spared the devastation that Superstorm Sandy brought to much of the East Coast, but we’re also impressed with how prepared hospitals and emergency management administrators appeared to be if there was an actual emergency.

While it’s impossible to be completely prepared for a natural disaster, even if we think we know when and where it will hit, last week’s storm forced local administrators to be ready.

And, by all accounts, they were.

Somerset Hospital, Miners, Meyersdale, Memorial and Windber medical centers form the Cambria/ Somerset Task Force with input from emergency management officials from both of those counties. The task force works together on tabletop drills to develop responses to different scenarios, planning for the interruption of utilities, transportation routes and supply streams in every location.

Each hospital double-checked its disaster preparedness in the days before Sandy swept through the region. There were two dozen representatives meeting at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, representing everything from medical staff to facilities maintenance.

“Some of the things we talked about were flash flooding and generalized flooding, wind damage and loss of power,” said Ben Policicchio, the hospital’s architect and safety officer.

“We really went through the list and made sure all the critical supplies were up to inventory – which they were.”

Storm Nagle, who chairs the Cambria/Somerset task force and is the prehospital coordinator for Memorial, said the local hospital – which is approved as a National Disaster Management System facility – was prepared to take patients from other areas affected by the storm.

“It was good to realize that we were ready,” Nagle said.

Craig Saylor, chief operating officer at Somerset Hospital, said that his facility was as ready as it could be.

“It is good to know that our tabletop drills and testing of the system works really well for our community and our region,” he said.

“We test for a reason.”

It’s reassuring to know that, if last week was any indication, our emergency personnel will be ready if and when they are needed.

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