As you know, disasters can come in all shapes and sizes, from a power failure that affects only your facility to an earthquake that sends hundreds of casualties to your Emergency Department.
Preparing for these disaster events starts with a thorough, comprehensive plan. Here are some tips for pinpointing gaps in your hospital’s disaster preparedness plan--and suggestions for how to address them.
Start by performing a “gap analysis” of your resources.
As part of your disaster preparedness planning, you’ve already done your risk analysis and determined the types of hazards your hospital is most likely to face. You’ve prioritized the list in terms of probability of occurring and level of impact it would have on your hospital.
You’ve also likely heard the recommendation to perform a “gap analysis”, but have you done it? This is often a confusing topic without clear guidelines on how to address it, so let’s review the steps here.
1. Identify the most likely disasters.
2. Determine the total resources needed to treat these patients.
3. Analyze your current resources available.
4. Determine the difference between the total requirements and the available resources.
Make certain your hospital is addressing all hazards.
The 2008 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey included a supplement on emergency response preparedness which surveyed 294 hospitals. It assessed disaster response plans for six types of events: natural disasters, explosions and fires, epidemic-pandemic disease outbreaks, bioterrorism, chemical attacks, and nuclear events.
Almost all of the hospitals had plans for natural disasters, but only 68% were prepared for all six types of events. Explosions and nuclear events were the most often missing from the disaster plans. Many hospitals were also noted to be lacking in planning for pediatric patients and those with special needs, such as pregnant women and those with mental health illnesses.
Are there any elements your hospital’s plan is missing? Using an all-hazards approach to disaster-planning can help avoid this. It encourages comprehensive preparation for a broad scope of possibilities.
Understand that disaster preparedness is ongoing.
Once you have identified the potential weaknesses of your disaster preparedness plan, you can begin filling in those gaps. However, be aware that the best disaster preparedness plans are continuously evolving and adapting to changes within the hospital, the community and the environment.