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3 Ways Hospitals Can Prepare for Emergency Situations

In the event of a disaster, people count on hospitals to be there for them when they need help. Hospitals serve as a beacon of safety when everywhere else seems dangerous. Whether it be a natural disaster, such as a hurricane, or a man-made one, as after an attack, injured people rely on hospitals and their staff to be ready to provide necessary care.

It’s not easy to be prepared for the unknown. In the case of natural disasters, there may be warning signs that prompt hospital staff to begin preparing for the worst, but other situations, as in the 2001 attacks on Sept. 11, are unpredictable. Because of this, it’s important that healthcare facility staff are always prepared to handle tough situations.

U.S. News & World Report noted that, since these attacks, many hospitals have stepped up in terms of preparedness and staff education. Recounting a 2011 tornado’s effect on a Missouri hospital, U.S. News stated that every employee knew exactly how to respond to shattered windows, flying equipment and the needed relocation of patients.

Getting ready for a disaster of any kind takes a lot of planning and forethought. There are many aspects to it and each one is important.

Have a Plan
The first thing any health care facility should do in preparing for emergencies is to develop a plan and make sure all staff members know their role. U.S. News & World Report stated that having at least two practice runs a year is now required by the Joint Commission, a nonprofit accreditation organization. Some hospitals go above and beyond the commission’s requirement, such as the Massachusetts General Hospital. According to Paul Biddinger, the hospital’s medical director for emergency preparedness, it has run 150 different exercises in the past five years, averaging 30 a year. Some are simple but helpful education sessions, but others have been complete emergency simulations, with actors playing patients and staff making tough decisions. Though an exercise like that can cost a hospital around $20,000, the staff at Massachusetts General reported the experience was much appreciated when responding to the Boston Marathon bombings.

Having a plan includes all aspects of patients’ hospital visits, from the time they arrive to the time they leave. FierceHealthcare pointed out this could include their ability to actually get to the hospital. Executives should evaluate a hospital’s location and understand where potential roadblocks can occur, and how to combat them.

Upgrade Your Facilities
According to FierceHealthcare, one of the first things a hospital should do when thinking about emergency preparedness is look into the structural security of its most important units. Tornados, hurricanes and other natural disasters test the limits of a building’s defenses. Because of this, it is crucial that hospital executives be certain they have done the best they can to prevent extensive damage.

“Construction might be needed to bolster a hospital’s facilities.”

Sometimes, this requires construction to renovate part of the hospital. Windows should be able to withstand high winds and the roof should be secure enough to hold during storms. The walls might need to be reinforced and some areas should be floodproofed. Some areas that should be kept top of mind when deciding which areas to value most include:

  • The intensive care unit
  • The imaging unit where CT and MRI scans are carried out
  • The area where back-up generators are kept

Stock Up
One of the most important aspects of preparing for a disaster is stocking up on needed supplies. According to the World Health Organization’s Hospital emergency response checklist, hospitals should create a system to inventory all supplies, equipment, pharmaceuticals and other essentials. The system should include a procedure for when supplies begin to run low. Additionally, a hospital should know how long the supply will last under normal circumstances, and how much more should be added given certain events, such as an impending hurricane.

Food and drinks should also be plentiful so that everyone can be properly accommodated. Bottled water should be stocked as well as food. The Jackson Health System of Florida states in its Hurricane Response Plan that patients will be prioritized in food distribution, and that staff is encouraged to bring non-perishables with them.

Additionally, a reserve of five thousand gallons of drinking water will be on hand at the Jackson Health System’s vendors, with a limited store of drinking water on hand at the hospital. When a hurricane is projected to be two to three days away, the order is placed for the water reserve.

It’s important, when bolstering a hospital’s supplies to not hinder daily operations. Hospitals have limits to the amount of space available, given the supplies they need available for daily operations. It’s important that emergency food, water and supplies reserves do not crowd existing storage.

How Mobile Mini Can Help
To stock up on emergency supplies in preparation for a disaster, hospitals can utilize mobile storage containers. These keep necessary supplies as close as just outside the building, on land the hospital already owns or leases. Here, they are out of the way, but in reach. Mobile Mini provides an easy storage solution, with containers that will be dropped off at any location, and picked back up when they are no longer needed, creating no extra work for hospital executives and staff.

Resistant to inclement weather and equipped with a patented locking system, health care professionals can rest assured their emergency reserves are safe from rain, wind and anyone hoping to get their hands on a hospital’s supplies.