After experiencing the false missile crisis during a trip to Hawaii, Dianna E. Graves, COMT, BS ED, recommends ditching the old drills when it comes to crisis management. Instead, create a new conversation around agreed-upon plans and appoint trusted employee leaders who can keep others safe and calm.
How do I know? Because I have always thought my staff was ready for just about anything—but now I seriously wonder if I am being delusional.
We’ve trained, talked, and re-trained—and then have been tested out of the blue: the periodic patient “code,” the thankfully infrequent tornado warning, and blessedly rare fire alarms. In the past year or so, we have worked on our workplace violence training, in-office behavior scenarios between staff members, and how to identify the subtle behavior that would alert us that all might not be right in a number of given situations.
I slept well at night knowing in an emergency, we would shine through! Then I experienced something I never thought I would ever have to think about in my life. A text message reading: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
We had arrived late in Maui after a long day of travel from the Twin Cities to Hawaii to warm, tropical weather, but because the time change caught up with us, we were up and ready to roll at dawn’s way too early light. Off we headed for our first breakfast in paradise.
Looking out at the whales breaching the ocean and listening to the sounds of myriad island birds, we were starting to relax.
Off in the distance at the restaurant, I heard a phone message alert, and then another, and then our phones went off. Faces dropped and stared with wonderment at the message. The words “THIS IS NOT A DRILL” was burned into my vision forever. Our early-twenty-something waitress began sobbing—so we began to comfort her. She ran from the restaurant to get home to her family.
Dianna E. Graves, COMT, BS ED
E: [email protected]
Graves is a clinical services manager at St. Paul Eye Clinic PA, in Woodbury, MN. Graves is a graduate of the School of Ophthalmic Medical Technology, St. Paul, MN, and has been a member of its teaching faculty since 1983.