Disasters can strike at any time. While we do not get to choose the time or place where they may wreak havoc, affect our personal and family safety, or impact our businesses and communities, we can choose to have a plan and to be prepared. Over the course of the next few articles, we will look at what it takes to prepare our health centers, ready our teams to meet the challenges that they will face, as well as to ensure that each individual person on our team has a plan to safeguard themselves and their loved ones.
In order for an organization to prepare for disasters, whether natural or manmade, there needs to be a clear understanding of the risks it faces. In healthcare, and as a requirement of the CMS Emergency Preparedness Rule, this is accomplished through an annual hazard vulnerability assessment (HVA) that serves as a “systematic approach to identifying hazards or risks that are most likely to have an impact on a healthcare facility and the surrounding community” (ASPR, 2019, para. 1). The completed HVA then guides the emergency management program (the policies, procedures, training, etc.) that drives the organization’s preparedness and resilience in the face of disaster events.
While it is often said in emergency preparedness circles, it bears repeating that there is no such thing as ‘business as usual’ during, and potentially even more so after, a disaster. Therefore, organizations, especially those with missions as critical as those in healthcare, must not only mitigate, but also prepare for, and respond to disasters, they must be ready to recover from them quickly so that they can continue to provide the care desperately needed in their communities. Consequently, another critical component of the emergency management program is a continuity of operations plan (COOP) or business continuity plan (BCP). While the emergency operations plan (EOP) that many might be familiar with tells us how to respond in a disaster, it is the COOP or BCP that will inform us how to recover and/or sustain our operations when a disaster impacts infrastructure, resources, and supplies, community needs and capabilities, and our human resources (remembering that our staff is often also experiencing the disaster at a personal level).
Where Can You Find Resources to Start, or Fine-Tune, Your Emergency
- ASPR TRACIE: Topic Collection: Hazard Vulnerability/Risk Assessment
- ASPR TRACIE: Topic Collection: Emergency Operations Plans/ Emergency Management Program
- ASPR TRACIE: Topic Collection: Topic Collection: Continuity of Operations (COOP)/ Failure Plan
ASPR TRACIE, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). (2019). Topic collection: Hazard vulnerability/risk assessment. Retrieved from https://asprtracie.hhs.gov/technical-resources/3/hazard-vulnerability-risk-assessment/1
Article by DJ Phalen, MA, BSPH, CHPP, EMT, NHDP-BC, CHSO, TLO, of our parent company Health Center Partners
DJ Phalen serves as the Emergency Management, Security, and Facilities Manager for Health Center Partners of Southern California (HCP). In this role, DJ represents the HCP family of companies as well as member community health centers in San Diego, Riverside, and Imperial Counties at the local, county, and state level, and supports preparation for public health emergencies through the Emergency Preparedness and Response Program.