Phelps has been at the forefront of emergency preparedness for many years. Dr. Emil Nigro, Director of Emergency Medicine, Jeff Meade, EMT-P, and all members of the department have ensured that Phelps continuously bolsters its readiness for events that we hope will never happen.

Emergency preparedness

Prior to Y2K, Phelps had already made in-depth reviews of emergency preparedness operations and had begun construction of its free-standing Decontamination Unit. Phelps conducted the first biological and chemical decontamination drill in Westchester County (perhaps the first in New York State) in November of 2001. Chemicals, radiological materials or biological toxins can be washed off of as many as 40 people per hour in the free-standing Decontamination Unit.

People who are contaminated and are also ill or injured can be brought directly into the Emergency Department’s Decontamination Suite. Each of the two decon rooms has a door that can be opened from the outside and a ventilation system that is separate from the hospital’s system. The patient can be decontaminated in one of the decon rooms and then brought into the Emergency Department for treatment with confidence that any threat of contaminating other patients in the Emergency Department has been eliminated.

Incident command system

Phelps adopted the Hospital Emergency Incident Command System early in 2001. The purpose of HEICS is to minimize confusion or chaos that might occur in the event of a local disaster. Phelps staff members have been assigned and trained to carry out specific duties should a disaster cause the community to seek care in large numbers or should any crisis affect the ability of the hospital to operate normally. The staff is also trained to disseminate information about local mass emergencies, as well as radiological, biological, and chemical terrorism.

Radiological decontamination

With regard to radiological contamination, as one of the closest hospital outside the 10-mile “safety zone” surrounding Indian Point, Phelps has had an agreement with Entergy (formerly New York Power Authority) under which annual training sessions and decontamination exercises have been held for Phelps’ staff and community agencies for more than 35 years.