Hospitals and other healthcare facilities have a crucial role to play in preparing for emergency situations and responding to a wide range of events that could severely affect the community. This includes both natural and man-made disasters, pandemics, terrorist attacks and other catastrophic incidents.
The availability of healthcare is critical if such an event should take place, with the surge in demand during a health emergency well above what is usually demanded of a hospital or healthcare organization, even on a busy day.
To help maximize the use of resources and ensure that casualties aren’t increased as a result of the health system struggling to keep up during an emergency situation, hospitals and other healthcare organizations must be well-prepared in advance to take on a range of potential situations that could arise.
These are the essential features of a disaster preparedness system for healthcare organizations:
It is essential that healthcare organizations should have in place a suite of emergency preparedness plans that cover mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.
These plans should cover a range of scenarios from natural disasters to pandemics to emergency situations caused by a mass shooter or terrorist event. Planning should include how to allocate resources, triaging and even evacuation of patients.
2. Command and leadership
You should identify which staff members would likely take over command and leadership roles in the event of a disaster situation. They should be offered training to ensure that they can carry these roles out successfully when they are faced with a real live disaster situation, including drills and practice situations.
It isn’t enough to only train the staff with identified command and leadership roles. Every single employee should know what is expected of them during a disaster situation. Flying blind can lead to greater scope for error, which could be a disaster in and of itself.
Depending where you are located in the world, there may actually be legally mandated minimum requirements for staff training for disaster preparedness.
During a disaster situation, having excellent communications processes and systems in place is essential. Poor communication could lead to an increase in casualties and wasted resources.
As well as knowing when and why to communicate, you need to understand who you need to communicate with and how. Finding a reliable communications channel for internal use is essential.
Many hospital and healthcare organizations have successfully used DeskAlerts to communicate with staff during a crisis situation. The system sends pop-up notifications to all PC desktops and cannot be missed or ignored, no matter what software is in use at the time. This is guaranteed to get everyone’s attention so they can follow instructions to manage the disaster.
Exercises are critical to put a healthcare organization’s disaster plan to the test, to see what works and what doesn’t work and what needs to be improved on. When deficiencies are identified, actions can be taken to improve these well in advance of an actual disaster situation unfolding.