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Emergency Preparedness Guidance: Home Health and Hospice

This year there have been multiple natural disasters that have been bigger than we have seen in the United States in decades. We’ve encountered enormous hurricanes, raging wildfires, and earthquakes, all of which have shown us a stark reminder of why we have emergency plans set in place to deal with these things.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have released their final guidelines for emergency preparedness plans. Included in this guideline, are specific home health agency rules. All plans must be updated and implemented by November 15, 2017. For home health and hospice providers, in particular, it can help to have an experienced company guide you through the process of developing and implementing emergency preparedness plans.

Risk Assessment

Having a risk assessment completed for your area is essential to knowing the kind of emergency plans you need to have in place. During Hurricane Harvey, there was torrential rainfall much farther inland than expected. If you have done a risk assessment before, it is worth reconsidering to account for larger and more destructive storms. For home health care and hospice agencies, it is crucial to have individual assessments done for all patients on your service. Risk assessment for one part of a state is often completely different than for another.

Emergency Plans

One size does not fit all for emergency plans. If you have several risk factors, you need to have several plans in order to ensure safety of your patients. CMS has sample emergency plans for different types of emergencies.

All emergency plans must include:

  • Each patient must have individual assessment of whether or not they are at risk during an emergency. An individual plan should be written and kept with the patient at all times. These must be reviewed annually.
  • A complete outline of the services the agency is able to provide to patients during an emergency.
  • HHA’s must inform state and local police of any on-duty staff or patients they are unable to reach in an emergency situation.
  • There must be an outline of what facilities the HHA has arrangements with to transfer patients to if they need to be evacuated.
  • Discussions with patients about emergency plans should be documented by the HHA.
  • Procedures to inform emergency preparedness officials about home-bound patients that may need to be evacuated during an emergency. These procedures should include:

    • How to communicate information to officials
    • Is the patient mobile?
    • What life-saving equipment do they  need?
    • Are they special needs (language barriers, dietary needs, etc.)
    • A plan to make sure all information communicated is in compliance with HIPAA rules and regulations.

Communication Plan

A communication plan must be in place to contact state and local officials in case of an emergency that complies with federal, state, and local laws. A plan to have patient care coordinated across providers to ensure the safety and health of the patient should be in place in case of emergency.

In order to do this, there must be a primary and secondary form of communication for health care providers, on-duty staff, and emergency preparedness officials. These need to include how to communicate on-going care across providers, as well as knowing when to alert officials of patients that are homebound and need to be evacuated. As with the emergency plans, communication plans should be reviewed and updated annually.


All staff must be trained in policy and procedure during emergency situations. Staff will need to demonstrate knowledge on the plans and procedures during emergency situations. All HHA’s will need to maintain documentation of completed training by all staff members.

BrightGray Solutions can help you navigate through the difficult process of making individualized plans for emergency preparedness for all your Home Health Care and Hospice patients. Contact us today to see how we can assist you. 

Free Emergency Preparedness Guide