5 Ways to Better Prepare Your Hospital for a Tornado or Natural Disaster

When it comes to healthcare facility emergency management, few types of disasters can be as scary or complicated as a tornado—whether or not it hits your facility. When a tornado touches down in a populated area it can leave what feels like a war zone in its wake, with potentially hundreds or thousands of people with complex, traumatic injuries. While regulations govern much of what hospitals must do to prepare for disasters, healthcare professionals who have experienced tornados know that even more can be done. This post includes 5 recommendations.

Beyond the Emergency Action Plan: 5 Key Hospital Tactics for Tornados 

The massively destructive Joplin tornado in 2011 was an eye-opening experience for healthcare providers in Missouri, despite their disaster planning efforts. Here are some key lessons shared by the Missouri Hospital Association after the tragic disaster that we feel it are important to revisit:

  1. Focus on effective incident command capabilities—Not only do the best and brightest need to lead incident command, but their training is critical as are ongoing incident command planning meetings. Also be sure to have processes in place to secure your command area to keep out vendors, imposters and the media. Having a secure, off-site backup location is also a good idea, in case yours is destroyed.
  2. Ensure clear, accurate and rapid communication—Smart phones and social media have completely changed how you need to respond during a disaster. To keep people safe and avoid panic, immediate responses may be necessary. A joint information center that is coordinated with other emergency response organizations, as well as a dedicated public information officer who coordinates messages, can be key to a successful communication strategy. You should also have redundant forms of communication tools for staff on hand, as well as billboards, paper and pencils readily available. Redundant forms of communication with regional and state partners should also be defined.
  3. Make safety and security a priority—Significant events bring all kinds of people to your hospital, whether or not they are injured. Media. Citizens. Imposters. It’s important to consider how you will control crowds if law enforcement is unavailable.
  4. Have a volunteer plan—During a disaster, volunteers will show up in droves and may be difficult to manage or turn away. Be sure to have a plan in place for how to deal with them.
  5. Be ready for a medical surge—Depending on the extent of a disaster, patient surges can be dramatic, leading to potential safety issues. It’s critical to have a plan in place for contingency or crisis circumstances as well as for transitioning to regional, state or federal resources, if needed. 

 If your hospital, or other medical center, is in a geographical area where tornadoes occur, a disaster plan is an essential part of protecting staff and patient lives. To ensure a smooth recovery, it is recommended that you create a partnership, prior to the storm, with an emergency response firm you can call upon that is trustworthy, reliable, and experienced that will be able to address all of your healthcare facility needs (24/7) when disaster strikes.