Is your Emergency Preparedness Plan 100% ready to go? If not, here are some tips that will help you get organized, stay safe in an emergency, and remain compliant with government CMS rules.
Making a Plan
Don’t wait any longer to wrap up your CMS Emergency Plan. After the rule that went into effect in November, government surveyors headed out in the field, inspecting healthcare agencies for compliance. The last thing you want is to see a surveyor at your doorstep before your plan is in place.
The new rules set national CMS requirements for healthcare organizations. In general, these rules are designed to protect at-risk patients during times of crisis.
Basic requirements include:
- Assessments at the agency level - not just corporate - for risks at your specific location
- Written documentation, involving community channels, of how you will handle hazards
- An emergency plan that is updated annually
Preparing a comprehensive, compliant plan is actually a fairly complex project. It involves a wide array of issues, like potential hazardous events, timelines, staff responsibilities, evacuation planning, and risk assessment.
Implementing a New Plan
Your new plan shouldn’t gather dust on a shelf. Just having the plan on hand isn’t enough; surveyors will want to see that you are actually following the protocols of the plan and incorporating it into your ongoing procedures.
Your organization should be able to easily:
- Maintain ongoing policies, and be ready to take emergency action at a moment’s notice.
- Communicate: Have procedures in place to inform State and local emergency preparedness officials about patients in need of evacuation from their residences at any time due to an emergency situation based on the patient's medical and psychiatric condition and home environment.
- Review and update your plan on an annual basis, and distribute to staff
Updating the plan should a built-in part of the process. Set a schedule for reviewing and updating it annually, so it’s not something you have to rush to finish each year. All along the way, gather new information that will be needed to keep your plan fresh for the long haul.
The Importance of Communication
The new CMS guidelines allow first responders to react as quickly as possible when the worst happens. Your plan sets the stage for fact action that saves health and lives.
That’s why communication and collaboration are essential. The contact list - which is a required part of your plan - must go far beyond a typical list of phone numbers. You must show true collaboration with local agencies like:
- Public health officials
- Emergency managers
- First responders
- Operations centers
- Tribal groups
- Federal, state, regional, and local level organizations
- Partnerships and mutual aid
You are even encouraged to develop a social media plan that could supplement other methods of contact during an emergency.
If all this sounds like a lot to accomplish, you’re absolutely correct. Luckily, there are software services that can help homebound hospices, home health agencies and PACE stay organized, securely maintain at-risk patient data, and automate emergency notifications. (Click here to see an example from Brightgray Solutions.)
Time for Testing
Without testing, your plan is just a theory - and emergency plans must work in real life. It’s time to test your plan and ensure it really works.
Develop numerous real-world scenarios, from mild to extreme, and run through exactly how your plan would work in that situation. Here are a few scenarios to get you started:
- You have no internet access for 24 hours
- A sudden fire blocks off your patients’ primary exits
- A tornado destroys part of your facility within a matter of minutes
- A city-wide power outage lasts more than 48 hours
- Flooding prevents employee attendance for several days
- An outbreak of disease affects a large proportion of your patients
- There is an active shooter in your building
As your scenarios unfold, make note of things that aren’t covered by your plan. Involve a variety of employees and outside agencies who can add diverse opinions to the mix.
Conduct discussion scenarios and mock disaster drills at least once a year to keep your plan up to date. And remember to document everything thoroughly, to prove your compliance as needed.
Training to Stay Compliant
Let’s look ahead to a time when your organization 100% within compliance. As you move on with your day-to-day work, the biggest risk at this point is becoming lax and forgetting details of the emergency plan.
That’s why it’s critical to provide ongoing training for your staff. Make emergency training part of every new employee’s onboarding process. Set regularly scheduled times for building-wide training updates. Soon, emergency preparedness will be built into your company’s DNA.
The right software can help you stay on track for the long term. When you partner with Brightgray Solutions, which specializes in emergency preparedness, you receive not only a software solution but a trained team of industry experts who help you ensure compliance and safety.