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If you are anything like me, breaking down the Emergency Preparedness Plan is overwhelming!  I have clients that have started bits and pieces of the plan, and I have clients that haven’t started anything.  This post is for my clients that haven’t started anything.  It is meant to be encouraging and a step by step process or break down to get you on your way to November 15, 2017.

Let’s get started by breaking it down into categories.  There are four major areas of concern with the Emergency Preparedness Plan.

1.  The Emergency Plan and the Risk Assessment

2.  Policies and Procedures

3. Communication Plan

4. Training and Testing of the Plan

Breaking Down the Emergency Preparedness Plan Step 1:

What is The Emergency Plan and The Risk Assessment?  Well by CMS standards, it is taking a risk assessment of your organization and of the community based on an assessment of hazards for where you are located.  If you are not sure what the hazards are, maybe the first step is to contact someone in your county on their risk assessment plan and develop yours off of their information.  Once you have created your risk assessment for the organization and the community it is located, it is time to develop an emergency plan that aligns with your risk assessment.  This plan needs to outline all strategies necessary in addressing an emergency situation identified in the risk assessment.

Next, take the emergency plan and develop a committee that can work on the emergency plan.  This committee should be meeting weekly to develop plans addressing:

1.Patient population

2. Services the facility can provide in an emergency

3. Continuing the ability to serve the patients in an emergency

4. Delegation of “who is in charge” and “when they are in charge” and “how are plans to be followed out”

5. Communication Plan

6. Collaboration with others in the event of an emergency

This may seem simple, unfortunately, it does require a thorough thought process and a lot of documentation.

Step 2:

Once you have step one completed, move onto step two, developing your Policies and Procedures to align with your Emergency Plan and Communication Plan.  At this point, you may not have a complete Communication Plan, but you should have a start to it, as in who is in charge, who is the spokesperson, and who will be contacted in the first hour of an emergency.  As you go through your plan you will know which portions need a policy and procedure.  A few ideas are:

1. A policy on how will the needs of the staff and residents be sustained throughout the emergency? (example water and food)

2. A policy on the sources of energy, lighting, and alarm systems.

3. A policy on the location of on-duty staff and the location of “sheltered” residents (this might be two policies).

4. A policy on how you will perform a safe evacuation of the organization.

5. And one last one, how are you going to transport safely medications and medical records and still stay in compliance with laws and regulations?

Last Couple of Steps in the Process:

The third step in the process focuses on communication.  If you are hit by a disaster, you should have assigned roles of communication and let the media know within 1 hour of the disaster where you stand in the process.  Some of you may be thinking, “least of importance, my first obligation is to the patients. ”  Ah, but not so!  Communication with the community and others is very much so key to the survival of your facility after the disaster.  We live in a time where information is at our disposal instantly.  Loved one’s will want to know what is going on and how they can help.  Curious minds will want to know is everyone ok?  The media will eat you alive if you don’t have communication with them, and may start unnecessary information circulating should they not get access to the facts of the situation or worse, they may talk to those, not even involved, and report out the rumors.  It is best to have the communication plan ready and treat it as importantly as the emergency plan.  Your shining future in the community may depend on it!

Training of the staff, residents, volunteers, vendors, and community is the last step in the process. This might be the ah-ha moment when you know that you have done everything necessary to bring it all together and get everyone trained.  This is also the moment when  you find the loop-holes in your process and have the opportunity to fix things.  It is extremely important that everyone gets trained!

17.5 Weeks Until Completion

Ok, so by know you are asking, where do I go from here?  Well, yesterday on facebook, I saw a post on “30 days until the start of the Iowa State Fair”…YAY!  Then a few posts down was one on “23 weeks until Christmas”…YAY!  On Saturday, July 15th you have 17.5 weeks to get this Emergency Preparedness Plan completed and in action.  Break it down into baby steps.

First you need to develop your team and set forth an agenda of weekly meetings and a final goal per month.  Talk with your community and county for their disaster plans and how you can fit in.  Maybe someone in your county is already planning a drill, try to piggy back on to that and get going on the process.  Ask other facilities in your county and your community for help, suggestions, and how can we work together on this project.  That’s a key component to this process, we need to be help each other.  Some facilities, with larger staffs and resources, please reach out to the smaller facilities and help them with your knowledge base.  Consider it a favor that will come back to you in the future.  Trust me on this one.

Closing Thoughts:

Lastly, quit procrastinating, as November 15th will be here soon enough, and CMS has made it very clear, the finds for out of compliance start November 15th.  Now, you can take a chance that you will be a lucky one and not be surveyed until the spring and nothing happens…but what if something does happen?  It’s a risk you take.  CMS is not doing this out of “meanness”, but out of the necessity that this has to be done and in place  We live in a different world and as a society, we need to be prepared for anything.  None of us like to think of the “what if’s”, unfortunately, until November 15th, we most certainly do, in order to be in compliance with federal regulations.  So get up and get started!