Emergency preparedness keeps Homeland Center’s residents safe


Homeland Center officials never stop preparing for emergencies.

It’s an unfortunate reality in today’s world that organizations of all types must imagine – and prepare and train for – the worst emergency scenarios. Detailed disaster and emergency planning is at the heart of Homeland Center’s commitment to the safety and security of our residents and staff.

Preparation begins at the top, with Homeland Center President and CEO Barry Ramper II. He is involved in every aspect of Homeland Center’s emergency planning and preparedness. Ramper keeps Homeland’s emergency plan with him at all times. It’s an ever-changing document, constantly updated to include the latest thinking on how to remain safe in a variety of situations.

All the preparation and planning ensures that every Homeland Center manager and employee knows his or her unique role in the event of an emergency and that the ability to transition into crisis management and emergency response is second nature.

Additionally, Homeland maintains a working relationship with state, county and city emergency services and disaster response officials, who would swing into action.

It’s all part of Homeland’s commitment to the protection and welfare of our residents – and to the peace of mind of their families and loved ones.

“You want to never have to use the training,” Ramper acknowledged. “But you have to have training that’s comprehensive enough to prepare your staff.’’

Here is a closer look at the multiple layers of planning, training and preparedness that go into Homeland Center’s constant commitment to keep residents safe in all kinds of emergencies, from fires and power outages to natural disasters, terrorism and so much more.

Homeland’s experienced allies are ready for emergencies

It all begins with coordination.  Our leadership coordinates with the county Emergency Management Department, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the federal Department of Homeland Security, and is a member of the South Central Task Force Hospital and Healthcare Facilities Subcommittee.

“We are the only skilled nursing continuing-care retirement community that actively participates,” Ramper said of Homeland’s South Central task force subcommittee membership. “That participation then leads to our having a better understanding of how to have a specific plan for Homeland Center.”

“That participation then leads to our having a better understanding of how to have a specific plan for Homeland Center.”

As the preparation goes from broad to specific, Homeland Center must plan for all types of disasters. These include external and internal emergencies. Ramper admits that sometimes the planning requires a rather dark imagination as Homeland Center officials work through all the possibilities that could occur. But the preparedness that comes from imagining the worst is designed to save lives and protect health in a real emergency.

Additional staff training is provided by the Harrisburg Police Department.

“I’ve looked at the unfortunate events that have occurred in school settings and office settings,’’ Ramper said. “We cover bomb threats, fire, terror and an internal active shooter. We look at hurricanes, tornadoes, external bomb threats, nuclear accidents, external terrorism and pandemic flu. We look at all potential threats in our training.’’

Delivering a comprehensive emergency response

Should trouble arise, Homeland Center’s emergency plan goes into effect. Every manager and employee plays a part in the notification, protection and even the evacuation of residents and visitors.

Every move will have been planned, scripted, practiced and prepared for so that in an emergency it becomes second nature.

Homeland Center has a Safety Committee that meets monthly to review, discuss and reconsider the plan and its responses to various emergency scenarios. All management directors are asked to routinely review their individual areas of responsibility, as well as to understand the role they play in the broader emergency response. From there, roles and training are assigned to and carried out by every Homeland Center employee.

“It’s right down to the staff level,” Ramper said.

Emergency planning even shapes improvements to Homeland Center’s facilities, including designs for a new lobby and reception area that will isolate any threat to the facility from an intruder. Homeland Center also keeps a large stock of food and water on hand in amounts that far exceed regulatory requirements. This way Homeland Center is equipped to weather extended supply disruptions or major transportation outages.

The fact that 60 percent of Homeland Center’s staff lives within 10 blocks of the facility is a huge asset. Employees can quickly respond to an emergency, even when not on duty.  Homeland is prepared to accommodate the staff’s children at the facility in order to keep personnel on hand around the clock in major emergencies.

“It would be easier to believe that bad things aren’t going to happen,’’ Ramper said. “But we’ve come to the point where we can’t think that way.”

Ready to confront all the ‘what ifs’

In his oversight position, Ramper receives regular bulletins from the Pennsylvania Criminal Intelligence Center. He can tick off recent emergencies at various health care facilities around the state and the country. He keeps all the bulletins on file for planning and instruction. These real-life situations become another way to help update and improve Homeland’s plan.

“We look at it from the standpoint of being prepared for all possibilities under all circumstances,” Ramper said. “I never want to have to face that type of moment. But we are not operating under the mindset that it will happen to some other facility.’’

Ramper and the entire staff know that only by planning for the worst can Homeland be at its best.

“We’ll be calm and we’ll work through whatever the situation is as the moments present themselves,” Ramper said. “In an emergency, you control your own balance first.”