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Suzy Fitzgerald, MD, co-authors article on disaster response in wake of California wildfires


Suzy Fitzgerald, MD, emergency medicine physician with The Permanente Medical Group (TPMG) and regional emergency management training director for Kaiser Permanente Northern California, recently co-wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review on how Kaiser Permanente prepares for disasters following California’s recent wildfires. The article’s other authors included Tom Hanenburg, chief operating officer for Kaiser Permanente Northern California, and Shakiara Kitchen, Regional Emergency Management practice specialist for Kaiser Permanente Northern California.

The story details how Kaiser Permanente has refined its emergency response practices in the wake of the 2017 Tubbs Fire and 2019’s Kincade Fire in Northern California. In both cases, the organization’s doctors, nurses, and support staff were able to help safely evacuate more than 120 patients while ensuring care continuity under difficult circumstances.

Key emergency response improvements that came out from the experience of these disasters included the development of a turnkey command center at Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland headquarters, protocols for opening a command center at the first sign of a potential threat, identifying interdependencies and activating resources in anticipation of transferring patients, and considering intermediate steps that can be taken before calling for a full-scale evacuation.

The continued development of emergency plans is part of a concerted effort to ensure the safety of the patients and communities that Kaiser Permanente serves, the authors write.

Read the full article on the Harvard Business Review website.

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