Medical Center Disaster Response

An appropriate and adequate disaster response plan for hospitals and medical facilities can save lives and help keep your community safe and secure. Establishing a response protocol as an integral part of your hospital crisis management plan well before a catastrophe can be an effective way to avoid panic and confusion in an environment of uncertainty. Follow the steps below to establish or review a disaster response procedure for your medical facility:

1. Delegate responsibilities. Who will be in charge during a disaster? Assigning titles and outlining a chain of command can help avoid mishaps and chaos. Make sure you have an incident commander who will oversee all response and recovery operations, and appoint staff to serve in supporting roles, including safety, communications, operations, finance/administration, logistics, medical and technical areas.

2. Outline tasks. Although the following list of considerations isn't exhaustive, it can help you start thinking through the tasks a thorough response plan requires. Once you determine which tasks and responsibilities are necessary, you can assign them to appropriate staff and volunteers.

  • Determine what must be done to prepare your building, internally and externally, for a disaster.
  • Decide who should be contacted during a catastrophic event, and how and when will they be contacted — consider staff, other healthcare facilities, patients' families, emergency operations teams, public health organizations, disaster response personnel and media.
  • Have a plan in place to ensure safety and continued care for patients, visitors and staff. Consider lockdown procedures, evacuation/repatriation, hazardous materials, and provisions such as food, water and adequate space.
  • Decide how cancellation or delay of unnecessary operations will be determined. When and how will they be resumed?
  • Establish a plan for handling surge capacity, including established overflow facilities and additional staff. Arrange for provisions, including transportation and childcare, to guarantee the availability of these staff.
  • Determine how inventory, accounting and other administrative considerations will be addressed.
  • Create a procedure for ensuring that your building’s power and other utilities remain operational.

3. Expect the unexpected. Once a risk management and recovery plan for your hospital is established, it's critical to regularly communicate its contents to staff members. Review and practice emergency procedures, reassign tasks as staff responsibilites change, and review arrangements with emergency services, fuel providers and contractors frequently to help ensure your plan will run as smoothly as possible if disaster strikes.

These tips will help you begin to create a catastrophe preparedness and restoration plan for your hospital. Having a plan in place is the first step to ensuring your critical business operations can continue should the unexpected happen.