AAMI Video Honors Heroic HTM Professionals from California Wildfire

Posted July 8, 2019

When the most destructive and deadly wildfire in California history raged around Adventist Hospital Feather River last November, the healthcare technology management (HTM) team reacted instinctively to the conflagration bearing down on the facility. With no ambulances or emergency responders able to get to the hospital, the team mobilized to round up wheelchairs, stage them outside patient rooms, and help evacuate patients in private vehicles.

AAMI has created a must-watch, five-minute video of the team’s incredible experiences. Their quick reactions are instructive for every HTM professional. While the Camp Fire blaze in Paradise, CA, was unprecedented in terms of lives lost, acres burned, and property loss, wildfires could be an increasing threat to healthcare facilities. HTM professionals could once again become front-line responders to a dire emergency.

In June, the U.S. Forest Service warned that 1 billion acres of land across the U.S. are at risk of catastrophic wildfires. “The number, severity and overall size of wildfires has increased across much of the U.S.,” Deb Schweizer of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service wrote in a blog post. “For many UDSA Forest Service employees, fire season is something they remember from the start of their careers, when they quickly learned there were five seasons: winter, spring, summer, fall and fire season. However, wildfire is year-round for much of the United States and the Forest Service is shifting to the concept of a fire year.

“What was once a four-month fire season now lasts six to eight months.” Schweizer added, citing such conditions as earlier snow melts, extended drought, and later fall rains. “For example, fires in recent years have burned well outside of the typical fire season throughout California, Arizona, New Mexico, Tennessee and New Jersey. Fires in the winter months are becoming part of the norm. … Now that we must plan for a fire year, we all have roles to play. What are you doing to help?”

‘There Was No Hesitation’

The Adventist Hospital Feather River HTM team hadn’t planned for a wildfire evacuation, but their response is inspirational. “There was no hesitation,” Rob Harry, who was site director of clinical engineering at the hospital, recollects in the video. “I didn’t think of anything except getting our job done and getting the patients out.”

“I have a background in the military and for me it was kind of like that training just kind of kicked in, where this is just something that I had to do,” BMET III Marc Silver says in the video. “I had to make sure that every one of these patients got out.”

“I may not have direct patient interaction, but what we did in the fire is to provide a service, not necessarily to directly save a patient’s life, but to assist all of the clinical staff in saving their life,” Network Systems Specialist Jared Wilson says in the video. “Patient care is everyone’s job. It’s everyone’s responsibility.”

The full, riveting account of an HTM day like no other, “Baptism by Fire,” will be available in the July/August issue of BI&T.