The National Weather Service confirmed two tornadoes touched down on Cape Cod earlier this week. The MGH Center for Disaster Medicine wants to remind staff of the hospital’s tornado protocol, which outlines plans and procedures for MGH staff in the event of the unexpected weather emergency.

“The tornadoes that touched down on Cape Cod earlier this week are a reminder that disasters can happen at any time – with little warning,” says David Reisman, associate director of the Center for Disaster Medicine. “Adequate preparation at home and at work is critical to ensure your safety and the readiness of the hospital to respond effectively. We encourage staff to use this storm as an educational opportunity to review their personal preparedness efforts and their department’s emergency plans.”

Staff are encouraged to review personal preparedness tips at www.ready.gov/ and can find instructions for creating a personal preparedness kit at www.ready.gov/build-a-kit.

Tornado watch versus tornado warning:

Tornado Watch: Tornadoes may occur in the next 4-8 hours. No immediate danger – time to prepare.

Tornado Warning: A tornado is indicated by radar. People in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately.

Tornado warning procedures:

Clinical Areas

Move ambulatory patients into their bathroom, the hallway or other internal location away from windows.

Bed-bound patients will be placed in the flat position, as tolerated. Turn bed so headboard is between patient and any windows. Protect patient with blankets or pillows.

Maintain accountability of all patients and employees until Tornado Warning has expired.

Non-Clinical Areas

Go to a shelter area, such as a basement or the lowest level in the building.

If you cannot get to shelter area, go to the center of an interior room (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls.

Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.

Stay away from windows.

Tornado watch procedures:

Stage equipment and/or documentation (flashlights, pillows/blankets, portable oxygen, etc.)

Collect patient shoes/slippers and place on beds to be ready if patient movement is necessary.

Review procedures with staff and assign roles to be filled in the event of
a tornado warning.

Communicate with patients and families what “the plan” will be if unit proceeds to warning.

Ways to stay informed:

Staff are encouraged to sign up for the Employee Alert System (EAS) 

From your desktop computer, go to Partners Applications > Utilities > Partners Employee Alert System to log into the member portal. From there, you can customize your notification preferences, verify your contact information and choose which Partners institutions you receive alerts from.

If you would like to receive notifications on your mobile phone, please make sure this information is in the Partners Telephone Directory. If you do not want your mobile phone to be publicly visible, you can mark it confidential.

Visit Partners Pulse for detailed instructions on how to use the EAS, including how to install the EAS smartphone application.


Visit Apollo, the MGH intranet

More information, as well as real-time updates in the event of a severe weather emergency, can be found on Apollo, the MGH intranet.

Tornado response checklists – for tornado watches and tornado warnings – for staff and unit leaders are available on the Emergency Preparedness page on Apollo. 


Read more articles from the 07/26/19 Hotline issue.