Friday, April 19, 2024

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

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.

John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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