Preparing your hospital to handle a disaster is far from a simple process. Not only are there a number of types of disasters that can occur, the coordination of many different departments and disciplines is required.
The key members that must be part of your hospital’s disaster preparedness team
Whether all of these roles are activated in an emergency will depend on the nature of the emergency, the type of care your hospital provides, and the anticipated demand for healthcare from the community. A typical list of members of your disaster preparedness team would look like this:
- Medical Director: The medical director will likely oversee the disaster preparedness committee, and would appoint an on-the-ground incident commander.
- Medical Staff: In addition to the emergency room and the operating room personnel, the heads of all departments should be included.
- Director of Nursing: The director of nursing will oversee the nursing component of the plan.
- Nursing Staff: From treating existing patients at the time of a disaster, to triaging new patients in the ER, to floating to units that need additional help, having nurses on the team provides needed insight to this role.
- Respiratory Therapy: In a disaster, the oxygenation and ventilation needs of patients during a potential utility failure must be addressed, as well as being prepared to treat the subsequent patient surge.
- Laboratory: If many are wounded in a natural disaster or there is a pandemic flu outbreak, what lab supplies must be kept on hand? How will tests be run if power goes out? Lab department staff can help address these questions and propose solutions.
- Blood Bank: Many disasters require blood products, so a representation from this area is important on the committee to be sure needed supplies are on hand or can be quickly located.
- Radiology: Disasters like Hurricane Ida have demonstrated how storms and floods can affect equipment and radiology services. This team member can help ensure the department is prepared.
- Security: Managing the increased flow of patients and visitors in and out of the hospital will be of utmost importance during a disaster, and known and likely security issues must be addressed.
- Facilities management/ Engineering: The structural integrity of the building, back-up systems for utilities, and the functioning of medical equipment will all affect the ability to provide patient care in a disaster.
Communications/ Public Relations: The community will want information and the media will likely be involved when disaster strikes. Having this individual on the team will ensure that the situation is handled appropriately and patient information is protected.
For a Sound Plan, Collaboration is Necessary
When developing or revising your hospital’s disaster plan, the input of every affected team is necessary to make sure all potential scenarios are discussed and contingencies put into place.
Make sure your disaster preparedness plan includes strategies for:
- Supplies and equipment: What extra supplies will be needed to support the patient surge? Where will they be stored and how will they be accessed? Is special equipment such as portable aspirators needed if a power failure occurs?
- Staffing: How will staff be notified of a disaster? Do they know their roles and responsibilities? How will a pool of additional staff member be mobilized?
- Space considerations and/or alternate care sites: Where can temporary patient care areas be created? How and where will patients be transported if an evacuation is necessary?
- Communication within the hospital, with EMS, and with local and regional authorities: What is the protocol for communicating with authorities in a disaster? Are redundant communication systems established in case normal systems are inoperable?
Your hospital’s disaster plan must be designed to specifically meet the needs of your particular facility and your community. Using a team approach is the best way to achieve this.
Editor's note: This blog was originally from June 2016. It has been re-published with additional up to date content.