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Safe & Ready

Catastrophic Events Can Happen to You—Anytime, Anywhere

Taking emergency preparedness seriously

By Mike Boardman, CEO, Readiness Associates


Over a period of a few days in late May 2018, a pair of deadly natural disasters served as powerful reminders that healthcare organizations must take emergency preparedness much more seriously.

First, what was termed a “1-in-1,000-year” flood hit Ellicott City, Maryland. On the heels of that tragedy came Subtropical Storm Alberto, which swept ashore in the Florida Panhandle. Healthcare remains just as vulnerable to these events as any other business.

Improving disaster response

Disasters – whether natural or man-made – pose enormous challenges to healthcare facilities charged with continuing patient care in the face of emergencies. In a prescient May 10, 2018, article posted to the American Hospital Association website, Dr. Robert Kadlec, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the Department of Health and Human Services, had called for a new regional disaster health response system.

“Bombings, multi-country cyberattacks, severe natural disasters and deliberate chemical attacks reflect the real and complicated threats our nation faces in the 21st century,” Kadlec wrote. “To save lives, the nation’s health care systems must be ready. Combating modern threats requires innovative solutions to train, equip, and organize our health care systems in ways that make our local communities more resilient.”

Public-private partnership

Kadlec called on “more than 28,000 health care businesses, emergency medical services, state public health agencies and local health departments across the country” to work together in a public-private partnership.

The ASPR pointed out that more than 141 million people visit U.S. emergency departments each year, that 50 percent of those departments operate over capacity, and that a half-million ambulances annually are diverted from the nearest hospitals due to overcrowding.

A competitive advantage

“To save lives in the face of modern health threats, hospital systems and other healthcare entities must step up their engagement in healthcare readiness,” Kadlec wrote. “As recent hurricanes and other large-scale emergencies show, being able to function effectively in a crisis provides a competitive advantage.”

Recognizing the risk to the nation’s healthcare system, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services made it mandatory in November 2017 for healthcare organizations to implement Emergency Preparedness Programs that include performing a risk assessment, developing emergency plans, communications plans, policies and procedures, and training and testing staff members to comply with the CMS rule.

Reach out for assistance

Healthcare organizations don’t have to negotiate this unfamiliar landscape alone. Instead, they can seek out emergency preparedness/response professionals to help them make the necessary emergency preparations.