Emergencies are inevitable and can occur at any time and anywhere. They are unpredictable and usually differ in scope and degree of impact.
Effective planning and preparedness in advance are crucial in protecting lives, properties, and the environment at large. An emergency plan outlines procedures for containing unexpected or sudden situations with primary objectives of:
- Preventing injuries and fatalities.
- Protecting the environment and community.
- Reducing damages to properties.
- Facilitating the resumption of normal processes.
In this post, we discuss the importance of preparing a healthcare facility to handle emergency situations and general emergency planning procedures.
What is emergency planning?
This is the course of action that needs to be taken in order to reduce the effects of a crisis or an incident. An emergency plan often includes a defined set of responsibilities and clear instructions for the various emergency response teams and the necessary response procedures during an incident.
Emergency preparedness for health facilities.
During an emergency, healthcare facilities and staff have a key role in preparation and response to all types of crises, both natural and manmade. Having a prepared healthcare system is significant in accommodating the increasing demand for medical attention that always accompanies an emergency.
With adequate preparation, health providers are able to keep the victims, staff, and community members safer.
Usually, hospitals have general emergency response and management plans; however, they may not have specific programs that prepare their staff members for major incidents or minor hazardous situations.
In order to provide adequate care and ensure the safety of patients and staff at the hospital during a natural disaster or emergency, the entire planning process needs to address all the levels of a crisis.
These planning processes include:
- Facility risk assessments
This is a multidisciplinary procedure requiring representatives from departments tasked with emergency cases such as safety staff, infection control, natural calamities, and disaster management services.
- Risk vulnerability assessments.
According to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, affiliate members should run and complete Hazard vulnerability assessments annually to provide a basis for emergency planning within their facilities.
Everyone employed at a healthcare facility should have adequate CPR training on how to respond during a crisis. Fortunately, different U.S government agencies such as FEMA, CDC, and FDA, provide useful resources for emergency preparedness, response, and management that include the PERLC-preparedness and emergency learning center.
- Coordination and command.
Typically, emergency situations are confusing and chaotic. However, this does not mean the response process should be the same; everybody’s role during a crisis should be defined clearly to avoid mix-ups.
The facilities need to implement the Hospital Incident Command System to help them devise response structures and procedures, streamline reporting mediums, and other significant elements of an emergency plan.
During severe conditions and forced evacuation of the facility staff and patients, the safety and possibility of continued care of the patients rely on how prepared the hospital is. Communication and security are crucial during evacuation.
While moving a mass of people from the facility can be difficult and even lead to panic, it is necessary to keep everyone safe during evacuation; hence a clear process should be put in place before the crisis.
Guidelines for effective disaster preparation.
- Proper organization.
To prepare for disasters, natural or manmade, health facilities need to have a well-documented emergency plan that can be quickly followed and practiced by everyone. One of the most important disaster preparedness objectives is to ensure patients are well taken care of.
During emergency situations, normal procedures like locating the patient in the master index cannot be possible, especially if the victims are unconscious. In these scenarios, a numbering system can be employed as a temporary method of entering the victims into the system.
This is done to allow for quick attendance of the victims. Other factors like financial and access services will be followed up once the situation has been subdued.
- Sound collaboration is necessary.
The staffing needs during an emergency will increase during an emergency. And, therefore, there is a need for a reserve or backup administrative and medical staff network. The facility’s credentialing committee can set up a policy providing temporary privileges in times of crisis.
Important staff of the facility, mostly doctors and high-level managers, were assigned tasks during the incident. The key factor is to keep the processes during these periods smooth and operational without bottlenecks.
During disasters and emergency situations, the lives of the affected population should always be protected, especially in the first moments after the incident, given that time is important in such cases.
Because emergencies are inevitable, prior planning is essential for facilities to respond and manage the condition timely. As a health facility, ensure there is a clear organization in your emergency plan, adequate training of everyone in the facility, and a sound collaboration among departments tasked with emergency response.
Doing this will lead to the realization of the importance of prior preparations, including reduced damages of properties, preventing fatalities and injuries, and facilitating the quick resumption of normal operations.