Thursday, July 18, 2024

In an emergency, those who have signed up will receive a text alert. And it’s not just about active shooters

Sentara Healthcare has implemented a new alerting system, SentarAlert (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of Sentara Healthcare)

HAMPTON ROADS — Hospitals and health care facilities can be big places with lots of moving parts and pieces. In an effort to ensure the safety of not only patients and staff, Sentara Healthcare has launched “SentarAlert,” an emergency messaging system that will use text messages to alert visitors to their facilities of emergency situations.

“We’ve had an emergency alert system at Sentara since 2011, but we’ve never had to use it and we hope we never do,” said Bill Brown, systems manager for Business Continuity and Emergency Management. “Part of our commitment is to keep people safe. It’s a very strong commitment and we take it very seriously.”

SentarAlert will use 120-character text messages to send out emergency alerts. They can go to anyone who signs up for them: hospital visitors; contractors who are working in hospital facilities or on hospital grounds; and even patients.

The old emergency notification system dealt mainly with an active shooter situation or a hospital evacuation, but SentarAlert will alert recipients not only of an active shooter by also of a possible weather event or other emergency.

Dale Gauding, senior communications adviser for Sentara, said they are working to get cards and other information into the patient rooms, receptionist desks, the cafeteria, and other locations to ensure that people know about the system and are able to take advantage of it.

While the healthcare system’s emergency planning is extensive, this requirement was handed down by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Brown said the healthcare system no longer uses color codes for staff overhead messaging. Any follow-up announcements made in relation to the SentarAlerts system would be in plain language.

“This is really just another layer of safety,” Gauding said.

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