NAVAL MEDICAL CENTER CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina –
Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune’s Emergency Management Department is ready to respond to an emergency 24 hours a day. How do they stay prepared? Planning and preparing is their answer.
“The advantage to preparing for an emergency is ensuring you have all the supplies and resources that you need,” explained Mark Starnes, emergency manager for NMCCL. “When you are not prepared for an emergency, you become part of the emergency.”
The goal of the department is to provide a safe environment for the Medical Center’s approximately 2,500 employees while maintaining 24-hour care for 48,000 beneficiaries.
“We want our patients and staff to feel safe when they come here. People shouldn’t feel unsafe coming to the Medical Center,” said Starnes. “They can rest assured that our staff are well-trained and prepared and know what to do when they hear an emergency notification. They will help you.”
The Emergency Management Department is located in Building 799, just a short drive from the main Medical Center. Starnes explains the official location was strategically coordinated.
“Being located separate from the main Medical Center allows us the ability to respond to the emergency, instead of possibly being limited movement and resources while inside and part of the emergency.”
The daily function of Emergency Management is networking with other departments including internal and external agencies, sharing information and resources and identifying possible issues and solutions. A great amount of staff time is spent conducting vulnerability assessments to identify potential threats, and then establishing plans to help minimize the threats which could hinder safety and operations.
U.S. Navy Petty Officer Second Class Matthew Jeffers has worked as the assistant emergency manager since April 2021. At any moment, Jeffers’ computers monitors are alit with flashing, vibrant weather radars and tracking systems.
“A lot of our job is scanning the environment,” said Jeffers. “We are always behind the scenes preparing, not just responding when things happen.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Incident Command System is the framework that the department uses to develop a local set of instructions for emergencies. According to Starnes, NMCCL’s ICS is composed of key plays to ensure immediate access to personnel, security, and finances among other areas.
“We initiated the ICS at the immediate onset of the pandemic locally. We added subject matter experts like our public health personnel and infection control to start mitigating specific vulnerabilities,” explained Starnes.
As a result of the local ICS proceedings, NMCCL moved to quickly establish a COVID-19 screening site just days after the first COVID-19 positive case aboard the installation.
The department hosts annual exercises to keep staff vigilant ranging from severe weather drills to mass casualty drills. The Emergency Management team often works closely with Camp Lejeune Emergency Management, Onslow County Emergency Services, and local and regional health care partners. These exercises provide realistic training opportunities to increase community and staff response efforts during different emergency situations.
“A big part of my job is team-integration. Our position is to ensure all departments, internal and external, know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Starnes said. “During an emergency, these departments work as one team to support the mission. Our job is to get these departments to share resources and solutions and work together.”
The next project for Emergency Management staff is natural disaster planning and antiterrorism training with installation and county agencies.
If you are a patient or staff member and experience an emergent situation or see a possible issue with safety, while at the main medical center, please dial 910-450-4911 or 450-4911 directly from a phone within the Medical Center. For all NMCCL Branch Clinics and properties on the installation, please call 911 in the event of an emergency.
The “We are NMCCL” initiative highlights the accomplishments of employees, clinics and offices of Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune.