Patients evacuated. Backup generators turned on. Water was rushing in and all around them. This wasn’t a drill. This was real life for healthcare providers in Texas, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina over the last few weeks.
Through my experience, it’s not just about writing a plan, to then be put into a binder and shelved. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma confirmed the need to make sure you and your organization are ready when the moment comes and it is no longer business as usual. I had the opportunity to listen to Orlando Health share their experience in managing the PULSE shooting victims. The degree of emotion and impact was still evident in their words and inflection. How could it not be?
I remember one of the physicians who arrived upon the scene saying that even though they had practiced, no amount of drilling can prepare you for the emotional impact that an event such as this has on the team and you personally. I too have responded to emergency situations. It felt like a drill when you’re away from work, running errands and suddenly called in. Every provider should be prepared. Yet, these four “must haves” are often overlooked with the everyday rush of work and cases. A drill is one thing, but sometimes it’s not till an emergency happens that leaders see the big picture.
1. Expand the circle of healing and care.
Leaders cannot fully appreciate that in disaster activation events are many times life altering for those involved. Having systems and infrastructure to support those involved is standard. The statement of who is involved is the key to what is a must have. People feel the same degree of stress and reaction even if they were not the ones bearing witness to the event. Many times critical incident debriefings are held for the immediately impacted, missing the larger circle of people who are just as impacted but not sure how to articulate their feelings or needs. A must have is the ability for the organization to heal, not just individuals.
2. Know your neighbors.
Looking at who and what kind of businesses are surrounding your setting can help with the risk assessment and planning for your preparedness plan. Talking with your neighbors also helps in co-creating a plan. I had community clinics, assisted living and a skilled facility next to each other. The natural assumption is that we would move internally within our system, but there was also a mall just across the street. We worked with the management of the mall to use them as a possible evacuation site. They were newly constructed and had upgraded infrastructure in case of an earthquake.
3. All organizations must have agreements with suppliers.
This agreement ensures that in the event of a disaster you’re able to recover and resume operations as soon as possible. Partnering with suppliers helps to exemplify the full system of response and provides clarification of expectations and capabilities. Testing the system fully is not only a good idea; it helps to address gaps within the response system. An example that was shared with me recently was during a recent wildfire disaster the road became impassable by motor vehicles. They were in fact isolated from deliveries for several days. Their supply partner came to the rescue through the use of a motorcycle and the needed items strapped to the back of the bike.
4. The final “must have” is memory muscle.
Memory muscle is the result of simulation, practice and knowing that it isn’t if you will have to activate, it is when. That was made very clear during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Memory muscle helps an organization know what to do, when to do and how to do it. Drills need to be conducted on all shifts, all days with all team members. Memory muscle can and does save lives and mitigate losses. It is an investment worth making.
Medline’s operations teams work around the clock to prepare for emergencies and disasters. Let us help you with your emergency preparedness planning.