RHEP Coalition Summit: Common Ground for Disaster Preparedness

On Thursday April 11, 2019, members of the Regional Healthcare Emergency Preparedness (RHEP) coalition gathered at the Bridgewater Conference Center for their 5th annual summit. The RHEP collation is a branch of the Central Ohio Trauma System (COTS) with a mission to create readiness and response for quality healthcare delivery during a crisis. 

Dr. Yeskey addressing the coalition

Dr. Yeskey addressing the coalition

Members of the RHEP coalition range from hospitals, public health, EMA and EMS to Long Term Care Facilities and law enforcement. “Each year we try to make it bigger and better. We have 250 people registered for this year’s Summit,” said Jodi Keller, Associate Director of Healthcare Emergency Preparedness at COTS, “We like to get everyone together to share best practices and lessons learned both within our coalition and from incidents around the country.”


The keynote speaker this year was Kevin Yeskey, MD, from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Yeskey currently serves as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary to ASPR. The office leads the nation in preventing, responding to and recovering from the adverse health effects of manmade and naturally occurring disasters and public health emergencies. Dr. Yeskey provided an overview of ASPR’s priorities and what the office’s goals were for future programs. Also, he invited members to ask questions related to their specific concerns in case of a disaster event to find out better what the federal side could be doing to help.


“We’re here to learn. We’re here to listen. We’re here to help understand your successes and hear your challenges and see where we can do a better job at the federal level to help you do what you need to do at the local level. To do what you want to do; save lives and protect Americans,” Dr. Yeskey said “We’re willing to make the changes that need to be made to make our support and our programs better.”

Adena Regional Medical Center panel answering questions from summit attendees.

Adena Regional Medical Center panel answering questions from summit attendees.

Next up, a panel from Adena Regional Medical Center in Chillicothe discussed their recent Code Yellow incident emergency response. The Ross County Correctional Facility had a mass-exposure of an unknown substance back in August and a large number of individuals were rushed to Adena, prompting them to activate their disaster response plan. The panel spoke about how they handled the emergency, what they did well, and what they identified as opportunities for improvement. This real-world example allowed the members of RHEP perspective as to what they could be doing to better prepare in their response plans. One coalition member, Matt Mercer, Director of the Emergency Department at Wyandot Memorial Hospital, said “You can put all these policies in place, put these things out about what you’re going to do, but hearing what actually happened, what were the strengths, what were the weaknesses, what were the opportunities and threats and having the Q&A with the team that was involved was very helpful.”


After lunch it was time for the breakout sessions. “The planning team worked very hard to include a variety of breakout sessions so that there would be topics of interest for all of the attendees. We are fortunate in the central region to have so many subject matter experts on key topics that we were able to tap into their knowledge and invite them to present at this year’s summit,” Jodi Keller explained. There were sessions ranging from triage planning to National Guard capabilities to hospital exercise evaluations and planning considerations for mass vaccinations.

However, the most important aspect of the summit was for members to network and bond over their shared mission to prepare and protect. “Being in a 25-bed critical access hospital, not having anyone to bounce ideas off of, it’s nice to have the coalition to throw those ideas against,” Emergency Preparedness Coordinator at Barnesville Community Hospital Kim Young said. Similarly, Niki Long, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for Nationwide Children’s Hospital explained, “It’s so nice to know that you have resources and you’ve got relationship building and networking that you can kind of fall back on … to have other people out there who have done this and are looking at the same things and have the same requirements and can help each other out.”

Learn more about the RHEP Coalition here: https://www.centralohiotraumasystem.org/coalition


Want to see more photos from the summit? Check out our Flickr.