The life of a hospital emergency preparedness coordinator (EPC) is an exercise in prioritization. The day starts with errant fire alarms and security actions, continues with a crushing schedule of meetings and trainings, and often ends late at night with the EPC wondering, “What just happened? What did I accomplish? Did I make my hospital safer today?”

In this hectic schedule, there isn’t a lot of time to engage your facility and staff in serious disaster preparation. Fire alarms, snow emergencies and “Code Pink” or child abduction drills often are practiced through the year. While these are important, the incident that is too often overlooked is that of a contaminated patient or patients arriving at your emergency department.

The disaster is not the arrival of the contaminated patients. The disaster will be when the primarily contaminated victim arrives at your door and then secondarily contaminates your emergency department, staff and other patients. It is incumbent upon the receiving entity to triage, decontaminate and treat contaminated patients.

Meet Anna Marsh

There is an old saying, “If you want something done, ask the busy guy. He has momentum!”

In Fort Wayne, Ind., there’s a new variation on that theme: “If you want something done, ask a feisty emergency preparedness coordinator with four daughters, bible study, kick boxing classes and one of the states largest hospital facilities in her charge.”

In other words: If you need something done, give it to Anna Marsh.

Anna Marsh is the emergency preparedness coordinator for Parkview Regional Medical Center (PRMC) in Fort Wayne, Ind. PRMC is an expansive facility opened in 2012 on the north side of this city of 250,000 people. It covers 4 million square feet of real estate that includes a nine-story tower of inpatient rooms and services and a helicopter full of jet fuel perched on the roof. The facility is projected to have over 50,000 emergency department visits this year. Anna has her hands full, and she not only thinks about hazardous materials and contaminated patients, but she has a solid workable plan for handling them. More importantly, she has a plan for getting her staff trained.