On First Anniversary, Response to Plane Crash Remembered

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The Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday, July 6, 2013 will never be forgotten. The tragedy claimed three lives, injured 200, and left families with devastating memories that will last forever. Those memories will also stay with the Stanford Medicine care teams that responded so quickly.

“It was a horrible event, but it’s the type of situation our hospitals prepare for,” said Brandon Bond, administrative director of the office of emergency management for Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. The hospitals were among nine in the Bay Area that were called into emergency action to evaluate and treat the crash victims.

Regular training and preparation meant that care teams knew how to mobilize as soon as the news hit. Emergency professionals from the Stanford Trauma Center, the Marc and Laura Andreessen Emergency Department and the Office of Emergency Management had an incident response plan in place that had been well-rehearsed during many mock scenarios. The plan included activation of the Hospital Command Center to manage response while helping maintain regular hospital operations. This Command Center was fully staffed and activated within 20 minutes of a “Code Triage Major” alert to the staff, bringing together cross-functional teams throughout both hospitals to safely and efficiently coordinate the expected surge of patients.

Victims started arriving within 90 minutes of the crash, and the hospitals had already mobilized seven trauma teams with fully trained surgeons and five perioperative teams to evaluate and treat the influx. In all, 39 adult and 16 pediatric patients were seen on this fateful day. “The injuries were of varying degrees,” said David Spain, MD. As chief of trauma and critical care surgery at Stanford, Spain was already on site when patients started arriving at the trauma center by ambulance and helicopter. (Stanford and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford are home to the only Level I trauma center for adults between San Francisco and San Jose, and the only Level I pediatric trauma center in the Bay Area verified by the American College of Surgeons.)

Eric A. Weiss, MD, medical director for the Office of Emergency Management, recalled the rapid and successful deployment of care teams. “We quickly mobilized more than 150 health care providers dedicated to responding to the tragedy,” said Weiss, who is also an associate professor of emergency medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine. “This included physicians, nurses, technicians, clerks, registration personnel, social workers, translators and other vital specialists from throughout Stanford and Packard Children’s hospitals.”

It was obvious that the many hours devoted to emergency preparedness made a difference. “Everyone came together right away to deal with a rapidly evolving tragedy and do what they do best, which is save lives,” said Bond, who also leads the hospitals’ emergency preparation for other types of crises, such as power outages and earthquakes. “Each member of our teams showed extraordinary, compassionate care for the victims, and their response displayed the strength and resiliency of our entire organization.”

Despite the successful response, emergency preparedness never ends. “No one wants a disaster like this to ever happen,” said Bond, “but we still must prepare. We learned a lot from our response to this tragedy, so we’ve continued to train, better equip and further improve our response plans for the next major incident.”

Find out more about our Office of Emergency Management and emergency preparedness for families and community here.

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