Adequately preparing a hospital to handle a disaster is far from a simple process. Not only are there a multitude of types of disasters that can occur, the coordination of many different departments and disciplines is required.
What key members should be included in your hospital’s disaster preparedness team?
A general list of members would comprise the following:
- Medical Director: The medical director will likely oversee the committee.
- Medical Staff: In addition to Emergency Room and the Operating Room, the heads of all departments should be included if possible.
- 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? A member/s of this department can help address these questions.
- Blood Bank: An increase in the amount of blood products that are needed is expected in a disaster, so a representation from this area is important on the committee.
- Radiology: Disasters like Hurricane Katrina have demonstrated how storms and floods can affect equipment and radiology services. This team member can help ensure the department is prepared.
- Security: The flow of patients and visitors in and out of the hospital will be of utmost importance during a disaster. Addressing security issues within the committee will be necessary.
- Facilities management/ Engineering: The structural integrity of the building, back-up systems for utilities, the functioning of medical equipment- these 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.
Why is this collaboration necessary?
The input of every team member is necessary to ensure that all aspects of developing and revising a hospital’s disaster plan are covered when developing and revising a hospital’s disaster plan. Disaster planning must address:
- 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 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 facility and your community. Using a team approach is the best way to achieve this.