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Operational Status Indicators: Severity Levels

Emergencies at MD Anderson are triaged based on the severity of an event and its affect on the health and safety of our patients, visitors and employees. Actions that occur at each severity level are summarized below. See additional information on severity level conditions involving hurricanes.

Normal Operations

  • All managers and employees assigned responsibilities for emergency planning and implementation are required to assess, review and prepare plans to ensure a constant state of readiness.

Severity Level 1

  • A localized emergency occurred in a specific area, causing no disruption of function, very little damage and no apparent threat to employees or patient safety (e.g., minor utility outage).
  • Activated for Facilities Management employees only.
  • Employees report for duty as scheduled.

Severity Level 2

  • One major function has been temporarily disrupted (e.g., minor flooding); however, patient care can be maintained.
  • Potential threat to employee or patient safety may exist in limited areas.
  • Employees report for duty as scheduled.

Severity Level 3

  • One or more major functions may be severely disrupted, restricting our ability to carry on normal patient care (e.g., major fire).
  • Incident Command Center activated.
  • Minimizing of operations and staff may be necessary.

Severity Level 4

  • Threat to patient/employee safety exists (e.g., direct hit by hurricane); provision of care is limited to inpatients.
  • All operations are coordinated by the Incident Command Center under the direction of the Incident Officer and section chiefs.
  • The institution is in complete lockdown.


  • Immediate threat of the emergency is over; Recovery team assesses hazards and damage to the institution.
  • Operations coordinated by Incident Command Center.
  • Access restricted to Recovery team and essential staff assigned to patient care or recovery operations.

Institutional severity levels differ from the severity levels of the City of Houston, Harris County and other hospitals in the Texas Medical Center. The Incident Command Officers monitor all government severity levels and decisions when evaluating our status.

Decision Makers

Triage Officers – Severity level escalation decisions are made by any of these Triage Officers:

  • Vice President for Operations and Facilities
  • Executive Vice President and Physician-In-Chief
  • Senior Vice President and Chief of Clinical Operations
  • Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer

Incident Officer – Once the institution is 
at a Severity Level 3 or above, the Incident Command Center is activated and the Incident Officer makes all institutional decisions.
Emergency Plan Officers
– To find the Emergency Plan Officer for your area, read your Departmental Emergency Operations Plan or ask your supervisor. 

Employee Release

In the rare event that a situation on campus warrants an employee release, employees will receive the message through:

  • Emergency Plan Officers (EPOs) or from their department managers or supervisors
  • RING Line: 713-792-7464
  • MD Anderson Alert notification system
  • MDA-TV Channel 20

Issues specific to an area or individual should be addressed by department managers or supervisors.


MD Anderson’s main campus defends-in-place (all employees remain where they are and wait for instructions) instead of evacuating. Typically, the hospital will not be evacuated during a hurricane, severe weather threat or similar occurrence. Any decision to evacuate the hospital will be made by the Incident Command Officers.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center