Congratulations to JoDee Alverson, director of accreditation at St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center, a community hospital in Ketchum, Idaho. JoDee was named an Everbridge Hero for her heroic acts managing staffing and safety during recent wildfires. The fires, which started in August 2013 as the result of a lightning strike, consumed over 100,000 acres in the Beaver Creek area of Idaho.
As the fire escalated and evacuation orders were issued, the hospital began to worry about staffing. On the evening of August 15th, as the flames crept within a half mile of some town neighborhoods, JoDee used the Everbridge system to send a message to the hospital’s management team, asking them to check in with their employees, verify their safety, and find out who would be available to support patients the next morning.
According to JoDee, while the situation was stressful, using the Everbridge system was easy: “I really didn’t need much training because the system is so user-friendly. I hate to say idiot-proof because I don’t want to call myself an idiot – but that’s really what it is. It’s nicely setup.”
On Friday the 16th, roughly 2,000 residents were evacuated from area homes – including JoDee. Instead of seeking shelter in one of the nearby towns, JoDee headed back towards the hospital. With the safety of hospital employees in mind, she used her smartphone to send a polling question to ask employees if they had been evacuated, if they needed shelter, and if non-evacuated staff had housing to share.
JoDee describes the experience, “I activated the Everbridge Mobile Manager – again, it was so simple. It’s unbelievable. Now the problem was at the time that the fire was really blowing up and I was actually trying to get back to the hospital. Phones were starting to lose connectivity because of the overcrowding, but the Everbridge system worked incredibly well.”
Later that afternoon, the hospital itself was put into a mandatory evacuation zone. In addition to the looming flames, the situation was made even more dangerous by the fact that only one road provided access in and out of the area of the hospital – a road that the fire threatened to close. Hospital patients were transported to a sister hospital about 70 miles away, via ground ambulance. But despite the danger, St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center stayed open with a skeleton crew, including JoDee, ready to serve more than 2,000 firefighters battling the active blaze. Besides burns, smoke inhalation, heart attacks, and bee stings related to the high-risk activities of firefighting, the hospital team kept critical functions available – including ER, respiratory therapy, surgery, labor and delivery, and the ICU – to support patients who couldn’t wait for care further afield. “People have acute appendicitis, women go into labor – these things happen whether there’s a fire or not,” explains JoDee.
Finally, on August the 22nd, the hospital was able to resume full staffing, and slowly return to normal operations. For JoDee, the real success of the hospital’s response was the ability to communicate with employees and the surrounding community. Throughout the incident, JoDee sent a daily Everbridge message with talking points on the latest developments. This communication was important, said JoDee, “especially knowing that a lot of people had evacuated town. They went to towns that were an hour and a half to two and a half hours away, just to get away from the smoke and the flame. Even though they weren’t in town, we still wanted to let them know what was going on in our community and at the hospital.” Through JoDee’s heroic efforts, St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center was able to keep employees and residents safe and informed.
Congratulations again, JoDee Alverson, from the entire Everbridge team. You are truly a hero!