Take Action: Steps for an Effective Emergency Management Plan
Stephen Weipert, Vice President of IFM, HHS
Across the country, spring has sprung, and winter is just a fleeting memory of cold, ice, and snow. With the changing seasons comes the potential for severe weather and more reasons to ensure you have a well-developed emergency management plan.
Collaborating with your facilities management team on this plan can mean the difference between life and death for patients. So, no matter if it’s a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or large thunderstorm, here are the critical steps you can follow to ensure your hospital is well-prepared to handle a significant weather event.
Start with the Basic Plan
CIHQ EP-1 requires each facility to have a written plan for such emergencies, and since those vary depending on the geographic location, EP-2 requires hospitals to conduct a risk assessment.
Following the guidelines mapped out by these regulations, you can develop a comprehensive plan to ensure you have everything covered.
Take that Plan Further
We’ve learned that these plans are critical for continuous operations. This was made evident in recent years when Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coastline, causing mass power outages that affected more than a quarter-million people within the greater Houston area. Not only did power outages impact the hospitals in the region, but also unprecedented rainfall caused flooding throughout the city, leaving some hospitals incapacitated.
Considering this scenario, do you think your plan is enough? Should you go further?
Here are key things to ask when accessing your plan:
- What happens if our hospital cannot operate, and we need to evacuate?
- What are plans a, b, and c for the evacuation process?
- Have we established a communication path with state and local governments to engage emergency responders to transport patients?
- Have mutual aid agreements been established with nearby hospitals? Have those agreements been reviewed in the past year?
- Does the staff know what their roles are during a crisis? Where is it mapped out?
- Who will lead the organization and provide direction?
- Who is in charge during nights, weekends, and holidays? And who is their backup?
Run Practice Drills
Communication is critical, and each time an organization practices its emergency plan, it provides an opportunity to improve. Conducting emergency preparedness drills at least twice annually allows organizations to identify opportunities for improvement outside of an actual crisis and refine communications internally and externally, which is why it is essential to include your local authorities in the process.
After each drill, conduct a root cause analysis (RCA) for critical failure points and report those findings through your safety committee. RCAs help analyze failures in a non-confrontational and non-punitive process.
Using the results from the RCAs and guidance from the safety committee, hold a multidisciplinary meeting that includes administration, nursing, support services, and clinical support departments to discuss the findings and collaborate on adjustments.
Although major situations like this are rare, being unprepared to handle emergencies can potentially jeopardize patients and staff. Understanding and implementing the guidelines and standards of CIHQ Standards EP-1 through EP-10 will provide a path toward a comprehensive and effective emergency preparedness plan.