Guest Columns

Emergency preparedness: More than an act of paperwork

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Martie L. Moore, RN, MAOM, CPHQ
Martie L. Moore, RN, MAOM, CPHQ

My phone rang and the voice said, “We are activating our incident command center.“ I asked, “Is this a drill?” The voice in a solid tone replied, “This is not a drill.” 

Responding in my flip-flops and shorts, I drove to the hospital. As I came around the corner, people were snaked outside of the Emergency Department in a line. Storm clouds created a microburst that pulled up chemicals used for agricultural purposes. The result: respiratory distress for over 300 people.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has come out with emergency preparedness regulations impacting all care settings across the continuum. “This is not a drill,” are now words everyone must be prepared to respond to — no matter the setting.

As leaders, we must provide an understanding of the “why” behind the plan and drills. The “why” is not about compliance with federal and state regulations. The “why” is to understand what risks are possible so leaders can develop mitigation strategies to minimize human and business losses.

Here are three things leaders should consider to help guide their organizations to better preparedness:

Readiness planning

This is where both anticipatory and experiential data are utilized. A risk assessment is essential — so is understanding what's happened in the past or known to occur. State data can provide insight as well regarding natural, criminal and other indicators of potential scenarios.

Leaders must be anticipatory about events. They need to think through if they have to shelter in place or evacuate, and also what they would do if the community comes to them for shelter, food or care.

Emergency operations planning

Plan development is key. Leaders put the planning into organizational policies and procedures, which leads to the development of checklists to guide action. The main focus must be on designing workflow to utilize during activation and recovery.

It is not business as usual during this time. Roles, responsibilities and actions must be predefined. Leaders need to designate more than themselves for the roles needed during activation.

It's also a good time to think about the securement of agreements with suppliers. Leaders need to review purchasing agreements to assure there is clarity about the role that supplier will have in an emergency. Remember to include your suppliers in a drill to assure employees know how to access partners during an emergency. A trusted business partner should also be one who can help get you the right products at the right time, especially when disaster strikes. 

Creating memory muscle within the organization 

Drills, training and communication will create a continuity of the emergency preparedness operations plan throughout the organization and among employees.

Pushing the emergency preparedness plan to the point of failure will help sharpen the performance of the plan, and those who will utilize it. Drilling more than once a year can build the team's memory muscle to help ensure everyone is prepared to respond when an actual emergency is occurring. 

If I have learned one thing, it is not if an emergency will occur — it is when.

Martie Moore, RN, MAOM, CPHQ, is the chief nursing officer at Medline Industries Inc. and a corporate advisory council member for the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel.

Guest Columns

Guest columns are written by long-term care industry experts, ranging from academics and thought leaders to administrators and CEOs.