Hospitals have always played a vital role in providing essential medical care during disasters. Depending on the nature of these tragedies, the demands placed on hospital facilities and their staff can be overwhelming. However, with the right emergency response, hospitals can potentially save more lives in spite of these critical events. In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, it’s important to review your hospital’s emergency response plan. Here’s a handy checklist to help you make sure your facility is fully prepared for anything!
- Review Your Command and Control System: As part of a command and control system, there should be a hospital incident command group, with representatives from each department within the hospital. Each person in this group should be trained to coordinate their respective emergency response tasks. Create a command center or area in your hospital that can be equipped to handle emergency response activities with an effective means of communication.
- Communicate: In times of crisis, communication is key. You’ll need to brief hospital staff on their roles within your emergency plan. You’ll also want to make sure your public relations department coordinates hospital communications to the public, media and health authorities and has a designated location to hold press conferences. Last, but not least, make sure you have reliable primary and back-up communication systems, i.e. phones, mobile devices, internet connection, etc. and access to an updated contact list.
- Maintain Safety and Security Procedures: Develop a security team and ask them to help identify potential security and safety risks within the hospital. From this list, implement a plan to ensure these security measures are clearly identified and addressed.
- Organize a Triage and Surge Capacity Plan: There should be an experienced triage staff member in charge of all triage operations during an emergency. In the event of mass casualties, determine how your triage area will receive these patients, and identify a separate waiting area for wounded patients able to walk. Depending on the disaster, your hospital staff may also have to expand beyond its normal capacity to meet the increased demand. So, determine how you can expand hospital areas for patient overflow. When necessary, work with local authorities to find additional sites that may be converted to patient care units.
- Ensure Continuity of Essential Services: Even during a critical event, essential hospital services must continue, so identify these services and the resources needed to maintain them. You may also want to coordinate with the local hospital care network to ensure that provision for these services are continuous throughout the community.
- Coordinate Human Resources and Manage Supplies: A hospital is only as good as its personnel. This is especially true during an emergency. You may have to call in off-duty staff to help with the increased demand, so it’s important to have a current contact list. It’s a good idea to have a contingency plan to handle the potential longer shifts, and be able to provide for food, water and living space for the additional personnel. Make sure you’ll have the necessary equipment, supplies, and pharmaceuticals needed, or have a plan in place on how to maintain these supplies during the crisis.
- Post-disaster recovery: Inform your staff the crisis has ended, and the hospital can resume normal operations. After such a critical event, your staff may need access to counseling or family support services, so it’s wise to provide a post-disaster recovery program. Don’t forget to acknowledge and appreciate your staff’s hard work after the event as well.
We hope your hospital will never have to enact an emergency response plan, but it’s better to be prepared. These actions can help save more lives in the event of a catastrophe. For additional resources on hospital emergency response plans, please click here.