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Emergency Management: How Healthcare Facilities Can Proactively Prepare For a Disaster

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In 2017, healthcare facilities around the nation have been faced with a wide range of natural disasters and emergencies.

There have been hurricanes, floods, fires, and power outages, just to name a few of the crises faced by care facilities such as nursing homes and hospitals.

Facilities with strong disaster preparedness strategies have been able to weather the literal storms, whereas those who were unprepared have experienced great losses, including patient deaths.

All healthcare facilities can improve their existing plans to more proactively prepare for natural disasters. Scott Courmier of HealthCare Dive laid out five strategies for this kind of vital preparation. Let’s go into detail about each one of these strategies.

Clear Communication

Courmier points out that sometimes organizations try to keep information from getting to the public for fear of negative reactions to how the organization dealt with a crisis. He argues that this is an outdated approach to communication, especially because everything eventually gets to the public anyway. A straightforward communications strategy is far better.

One way that we recommend maintaining clear communication is to have a strategic plan in place regarding the order in which you will contact each individual constituent who needs to receive information, and how you will get information to the general public.

In an emergency situation, you can’t depend on one simple system of communication to effectively spread information, because cell service can be disrupted, people can be separated from the technology that allows them to get online, and landlines could be down. Multimodal communication strategies allow you to send out information across multiple platforms at once in order to reach as many affected individuals as possible.

Comprehensive Training

Every year, countless healthcare facilities across the nation face zero emergencies or crises. Terrible storms, power outages, floods, and evacuation-level events are uncommon, which is why it is vitally important that the individuals in your organization know emergency protocols inside and out. They are going to need that information to be right at their fingertips in the event of an actual emergency.

Training can be conducted online, through in-person simulations and drills, or via webinars and lectures. You can develop tests to measure your employees’ knowledge of how to handle a wide range of emergency situations. Your staff needs to know how to manage communication during an emergency, but also how to ensure that patients’ needs are met, including the need for medications, food, water, appropriate shelter, clothing, hygiene items, and comfort items. Keeping your patients safe in an emergency is about more than just caring, competent employees. It is about a well-trained team of critical thinkers.

Knowledge of Assets

One common and important piece of advice that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services provides to healthcare facilities is to work together with other providers to ensure the most efficient response to a crisis.

That said, you cannot depend on some other facility saving the day. It is your responsibility to know how to contact the appropriate government agencies, emergency service providers, and local resources that can help you survive an unexpected event like a natural disaster. You should also be aware of what physical assets you have on hand for emergency management.

Technology Fail-Safes & Protocol

How will you get information to each person who needs it in an emergency? How will you access data if your own network is down? How will you communicate with emergency responders, patients, patients’ families, on-site staff, on-call staff, and so many other people who need to get information from you as soon as possible during a crisis?

Courmier suggests that it is a mistake to wait until a disaster has occurred to try to fix a problem with technology, and that this mistake can cost time, money, and even lives. Working with an information management company, such as our own WatchPoint AtRisk Registry, can mean the difference between feeling stranded versus feeling supported.

Healthcare Leadership Involvement

Make sure that there are people on your team who bring expertise to the area of emergency management and response. These are the individuals who can help you develop a proactive plan for what to do when disaster strikes, rather than waiting until it’s too late.

Need help operationalizing your facility’s process for tracking at-risk patients, collaborating with local, tribal, regional, State, or Federal emergency preparedness officials, and retaining the required documentation? Brightgray Solutions is ready to help. Click here to contact us for more information today.Free Emergency Preparedness Guide