The Art of Preparedness

Early in life, children are taught to always be prepared. Students are instructed to be ready if (and when) a teacher calls on them and young professionals keep resumes updated just in case opportunity knocks for the next step in their career. New parents learn to anticipate and prepare for any potential issue surrounding their newborn baby. However, in an emergency, being ready for an unexpected disaster can mean the difference between life and death, and Leslie Chandler, the Hospital Safety Manager at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Centennial, recently displayed both mental and physical preparedness, bringing calm and resolution to an ever-changing environment. 

On the evening of April 26, 2017, Ms. Chandler received a phone call informing her of a dire situation. As the sun was setting in the distance and she was making her way to her local gym, a small pipe burst on the second floor hospital staff break room, causing a leak that ultimately flowed into an information technology (IT) server room. Ms. Chandler arrived at the hospital and with hospital executives, established an Incident Command Center, which is a centralized area that brings together hospital leadership to evaluate, plan and act based on the situation. While this situation tested, immersed and consumed the entire hospital staff for a full 96 hours straight, Ms. Chandler put into practice everything she had ever learned about preparedness and safety. Baylor Scott & White – Centennial regularly trains employees and physicians by conducting community-wide disaster drills to prepare for such events. Ms. Chandler went above and beyond to respond to an emergency like this. 

Eric Boon, the COO at Baylor Scott & White – Centennial, explains, “Leslie assisted with the remediation, patient flow and systems analysis, and she is overseeing the ongoing construction as we continue to recover from the initial event. Her ability to calmly lead everyone throughout a very stressful event and guide multi-disciplinary teams across the organization yielded a positive outcome for our hospital.”

Born and raised in the small town of Ada, Okla., Ms. Chandler grew up as an only child in a close-knit family. As a young child, she could be found playing softball and basketball or spending her days in nature, hunting and fishing. She enjoyed many summers at the family farm, playing with cousins, helping with the cattle raising and spending time together. 

Heavily influenced by her parents’ work ethic and ambition, Ms. Chandler was described as outgoing, energetic and curious as a child. Emphasizing the importance of securing a formal education, she graduated high school with aspirations to become a scientific microbiologist. While attending college at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, Okla., she discovered she was not enjoying her studies and promptly changed her major to Organizational and Strategic Communications. With just one semester until graduation, she decided to pursue an additional degree in Occupational Safety and Health. “My parents are big believers in education and hard work, always stating those were items that could never be taken away from anyone,” she notes. “Both characteristics act as the foundation to any success I have had, whether career related or otherwise, and, truly, my parents continue to be my biggest supporters.” 

While managing her degree studies, she also worked an internship at a local utilities company in Muskogee, Okla., and upon graduation, by the summer of 2010, Ms. Chandler immediately stepped into a full-time position at the company, quickly advancing up the career ladder. After completing more than a year at this company, she grew tired of the long hours in a very hot environment and gravitated to the health care industry. 

After discussing opportunities with her mentor and receiving information about the Baylor Scott & White Health system, Ms. Chandler inquired about a possible opportunity. A few months later, she was asked to apply for a job. Starting as the safety coordinator within the Baylor Health Care System, Ms. Chandler relocated to the Dallas area to begin a new journey. “To say my parents were nervous about my moving to Texas is a big understatement,” she says with a laugh. “However, no matter what I have done, my parents have been instrumental in their support for my decisions. Their precedent of gaining experience and a deep knowledge base in their specific careers has always been a shining example for me and has prepared me for how I live my life today.” 

After only two-and-a-half years, Ms. Chandler was promoted to Facility Safety Manager at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Carrollton, overseeing the Environment of Care and Emergency Management within the facility. In this role, Ms. Chandler managed the non-clinical operations of the physical hospital, and that included general safety, utilities, fire safety, emergency management and disaster planning. By 2016, her position was expanded to include management of the facility in Frisco as well. “As you can imagine, the hospital environment is incredibly complex. On any given day, you are dealing with airflow for critical areas, humidity and temperature in the operating rooms and disaster preparedness, just to name a few,” continues Mr. Boon. “From the day Leslie started, she was asking questions both about her areas of expertise as well as general questions, learning more about the overall operation. She is well-versed in her line of business and is constantly immersing herself in opportunities to improve her knowledge, all for the safety of our patients, physicians and employees. Her calm yet assertive approach to her job ensures we are able to provide a safe, quality environment every day at our hospital.”

On that fateful evening, Ms. Chandler mobilized her entire team, bringing resources across all responsibility areas to manage the situation. Because of the location of the water leak in proximity to the IT server, the Frisco Fire Department, the Frisco Police Department and a multitude of additional community organizations and departments were called to the scene. “It was a difficult situation, and everything changed minute by minute. All hands were on deck to mitigate the risk to our patients. This was truly a team effort on the part of so many organizations, including departmental, community and administration individuals, and each was critical to ensure the utmost safety of our patient community,” adds Ms. Chandler. “After the fire department arrived, they assisted in barricading several areas, but water began dripping from the second floor to the first floor and eventually into the basement. Although only a few clinical spaces were impacted, we were concerned that downtimes might occur within one of the main IT servers and were unsure of the duration of the impact.”

Due to the uncertain circumstances surrounding the impact sustained, 27 patients were relocated to sister Baylor facilities, ensuring every individual received the same quality of care.

Ms. Chandler says, “Communication and teamwork were key during this time. I have a great department throughout North Texas, and they immediately showed up and helped. I cannot thank them enough. Although it is my job to understand and prepare for emergency situations, I truly believe teamwork was an important aspect to ensure the end result was a success.” 

Mr. Boon says, “At Baylor Scott & White – Centennial, it is our duty and obligation to provide a safe and high-quality experience when a patient chooses our facility. Overall, our primary focus during this time was to maintain patient safety, and we successfully accomplished this due, in large part, to Leslie’s leadership and preparedness.”

Carolyn Cameron

Carolyn Cameron is an online writer and marketer who fancies coffee, her family, random creative endeavors and finishing a home project in her off time.