by Tony Briningstool, MD, FACEP
Sutherland Springs. Las Vegas. Antioch, TN. Little Rock, DC. 2017 now has the distinction as the deadliest year for mass killings in a decade. When these tragedies occur, the scenes are both tragic and chaotic. It’s up to first responders, trauma units, critical access hospitals and hospital administration to expertly manage crisis situations, as lives hang in the balance. Establishing an emergency preparedness plan has never been more top of mind than it is today. With the November 15 CMS emergency preparedness training deadline a week away, are your facilities crisis ready?
The Emergency Department Is the Front Line
The CMS EP ruling applies to 17 providers types, including hospitals and critical access hospitals, (like Connally Memorial Medical Center in Floresville, Texas) ambulatory surgery centers and long-term care facilities. The ED is the front lines of a hospital emergency operations plan. An active mass casualty event funnels to the closest emergency room with no warning, that is not the time to stress test your facilities capabilities. Connally Medical Center’s Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) provided the readiness needed to meet the surge in patient volume.
It Takes a Team
Comprehensive emergency preparedness plans begin with a facility-wide, hazard risk assessment (HVA). Taking an integrated approach across every department, from ED triage to trauma surgery, from ortho to the blood banks, from administration to leadership requires a team effort. That team effort goes beyond the four walls of the facility and into the community. Collaborating with EMS, community volunteers, long-term care facilities and local government and including them in disaster drilling exercises helps define weaknesses and assess where improvements are needed. Those improvements play an essential role in a hospital’s EOP.
Communication is Critical
A robust communication plan is critical to the success of all emergency plans. Developing and maintaining a communication plan guides department and operational efficiencies before, during and after a mass casualty event. The communication plan identifies the methods for occupancy jurisdiction, outside assistance and information sharing across the department and between facilities.
Train and Test
The annual review EOP requirement is more than a reminder to maintain emergency preparedness. It’s a call to action. Conducting regular disaster drills and triage simulations help identify additional organizational and facility needs, like backup generators, vital supplies, and other medical equipment resources. Ongoing training serves as a great way to foster cross-functional teamwork both inside the hospital and with community resources. Involving new ED and hospital employees in the EOP process builds trust, and when the time comes, everyone from the ED to hospital leadership operates in unison.
There’s no other time like the present. Creating a comprehensive emergency plan means the difference between life and death. For most hospitals, many of the basic requirements of the final rule are already in place but may need to be optimized and updated to maintain compliance. Is your facility prepared?