Hotline provides info during terrorism event
The Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center (RMPDC) has implemented a 24-hour telephone hotline to provide emergency information to residents and healthcare professionals in the event of biological, chemical or nuclear terrorism. Activated only during times of crisis, the service is designed to handle calls that otherwise would go directly to medical facilities.
An agency of the Denver Health and Hospital Authority, RMPDC provides poison control services to residents of Colorado, Montana, Idaho, Hawaii and Clark County, Nev., through contracts with governments in those states. Services include operation of 24-hour call centers for nurse consultations, information about poisoning prevention and treatment, and information about medication use.
The nation’s recent emphasis on terrorism preparedness prompted the center to expand its information services. “As a medical response call center, we wanted to create a resource for our communities [in the event of terrorism],” says Patricia Gabow, CEO and medical director for Denver Health. “[A dedicated telephone system] will effectively handle concerns without overloading hospital telephone lines.”
Designed by Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Avaya and installed by Englewood, Colo.-based Expanets, the system is accessed via two dedicated, toll-free telephone lines for public and professional inquiries. In the event of a biological, chemical or nuclear attack, RMPDC will distribute the telephone numbers to major media in Colorado, and they will in turn broadcast the numbers.
Residents contacting the hotline will hear recorded crisis updates, and they will have the option of speaking with RMPDC representatives to determine whether visits to medical facilities are warranted. Healthcare professionals will gain access to crisis and diagnostic information.
Although Colorado is the only state that has contracted with RMPDC for the new hotline, the center is negotiating with the other states in its service area to provide the hotline. The center also is examining ways to expand information delivery via e-mail and Web sites.
The call center project is valued at approximately $105,000. Design, installation and management services, as well as some equipment, were donated by the two companies. Denver Health purchased remaining equipment with a $50,000 donation from Denver-based Castle Rock Foundation.