7 Tips For Hospitals To Prepare For A National Emergency 

 April 19, 2022

Emergencies such as natural disasters, mass shooting incidents, or disease outbreaks can happen anytime and usually come without prior warning. In such cases, healthcare facilities like hospitals and clinics find themselves at the center of such events, especially if they lead to many patients requiring medical attention.  

Here’s where healthcare emergency management comes in handy. Healthcare emergency management refers to the development and implementation of plans and procedures to cater to the influx of patients after a national travesty. The COVID 19 pandemic, now in its third year, is a good example of a healthcare setting being front and center in emergency management. Guidelines concerning population screening and isolation and management of COVID-positive individuals greatly benefited the disease management and limited its spread.

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An adequate emergency management setup helps hospitals and other medical facilities be ready in a natural disaster or mass causality event. This includes allocating resources arranging medicines and funds, and having a contingency plan if things go down south. Healthcare leaders and professionals can ensure patients receive the best medical aid possible on short notice. That said, here are some important tips hospital management staff and healthcare providers can use to prepare for a national emergency. 

Have protocols and plans in place 

The first step in preparing for an emergency event involves having protocols that provide step-by-step instructions to be carried out to ensure everyone’s safety. As a healthcare professional, you must ensure these are reviewed routinely to ensure they are up-to-date. Moreover, regular risk assessments should be carried out to ensure the plan’s effectiveness.

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The key to natural disaster prep is readiness, so emergency supply stores should be periodically checked and replenished. Running emergency drills can also help review the emergency setup and improve it further. Hospital guidelines in place must be able to dictate all steps of these processes and specify the periodicity.

Follow an emergency preparedness checklist 

When preparing for an emergency, it helps to have a checklist for the ease of ensuring no component is overlooked. These checklists must include all aspects mentioned in the detailed plan and post-disaster events that need to be managed.  

Standardized checklists like the WHO hospital emergency response checklist are followed internationally by many well-renowned healthcare settings. These are updated and reviewed periodically and as required and ensure all healthcare settings have at least the minimum required level of preparedness to respond to an emergency. However, you can also develop one better suited to your facility.

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Ensure the staff is trained

Educating your staff and having regular training and practice sessions ensures they are always ready for an emergency event. The staff must know the role they will have to play in case of a natural disaster or disease outbreak, so there is no confusion when an emergency does occur.  

Role-playing scenarios and running emergency drills can provide the staff with hands-on experience in managing situations to ensure optimum preparation and training. Regardless of the availability of guidelines, it is the healthcare staff who follow through on them- these mean nothing unless the professionals know how to implement them in a real live emergency event. So ensure your staff is well-trained.

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Ensure your plans are adequately resourced 

National disaster prep is useless if you lack the adequate financial, medical, and human resources to deploy them. Hence, these must include the management and replacement of such resources. It is also essential that enough funding is secured and set aside as a contingency, especially if the hospital is in a part of the world prone to nature’s wrath.  

The plan must reflect the number of trained staff that is available. A plan made requiring 50 people will fall through if only 25 actual employees are available to carry it out. An additional reserve of resources and staff should also be included as an adjunct to make up for losses in case of confusion and unavoidable circumstances.  

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Invest in a good communications system 

Effective communication is crucial for any emergency protocol. Reliable communication is not only important for relaying vital information promptly to the right people, but it also helps to prevent the spread of misinformation among the masses.

An effective communication channel is essential to keep employees informed at all times. The channel should allow users to send alerts in case of an emergency so that no time is lost in the message relay and actions can be taken as quickly as possible. 

Prepare leadership roles 

Healthcare management executives play a crucial role in emergencies. They must be ready to respond to and effectively manage such situations. They are responsible for protecting employees and patients and preventing them from being exposed to avoidable risks. 

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Healthcare managers should be able to guide employees through emergencies. They must also ensure the public and the employees adhere to the precautions to keep the community safe. This helps contain the situation and prevents panic and chaos that will only delay disaster management efforts, wasting precious time and resources.  

Learn from past situations 

Reviewing previous incidents will help the disaster management team identify shortcomings and develop a more robust plan to tackle them in the future. This helps prevent the same mistakes from happening again, and the learning outcome fosters the system’s future development. Furthermore, a discussion must be created to allow an unbiased analysis of the situation and its follow-through. 

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Emergency preparedness in a healthcare facility requires immense effort and resources to ensure safety. As the safety of the patients and staff is of utmost importance, this requires strict protocols to be put in place. It is also essential that the staff be trained and adequately educated in these efforts through various emergency drills and role-playing efforts. Checklists such as those provided by WHO help ensure the minimum required level of preparedness as the base on which further development of protocols can be carried out. You can use the tips mentioned above to develop a sturdy contingency plan for when things go down south.

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