Health care facilities must be prepared to weather hurricanes and storms

Health care facilities must be prepared to weather hurricanes and storms

December 26, 2016
Risk Management
From the December 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By Hart S. Brown

Major natural disasters like hurricanes and storms — Hurricane Matthew, which ravaged the East Coast this fall, comes to mind — can cause extensive physical and financial damage to health care facilities. This often leads to a temporary shutdown, and can even put them out of business altogether. Because natural disasters can’t be prevented, planning for them is crucial. This means identifying key areas that would be most impacted, anticipating the types of disasters that pose the greatest risk and proactively implementing policies and procedures to mitigate their effects.

Every heath care facility has its own unique circumstances that must be addressed in a disaster management plan, but there are five main areas that are common to almost all types of businesses, representing the greatest risks in any disaster scenario. When creating a disaster management plan, make sure to address each of the following:

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• Technology. From email to ordering systems, most businesses cannot run without basic technologies such as the Internet, telephone and accounting/financial systems. Whether due to physical damage or a power outage, loss of technology systems must be anticipated.

• Facilities. Loss of access to facilities is another common challenge. A business’ physical location can be destroyed, resulting in the loss of records, products and storefront/office. This could be due to flooding or other hazards, and while access may eventually be restored, businesses must have an interim location plan.
• Staff. Key staff members may be unable to get to work or even be contacted, and the larger workforce must know what to do in an emergency loss of access. A communications plan is especially important during a crisis.

• Suppliers. Most businesses have key suppliers. What if they are hit by a disaster? Entire supply chains can break down in extreme cases.

• Service. Certain types of businesses may close down completely during a disaster, but businesses like health care facilities must continue to serve the public and that has to be a priority in disaster planning. A disaster management plan should address any potential scenarios and include, at a minimum, roles and responsibilities, emergency procedures, a communications plan and a process for training, testing and maintaining the plan. Copies of the plan should be distributed to all individuals with responsibilities.

Before the storm
Sometimes it’s possible to predict when and where a storm will hit. Other times, businesses are totally caught off guard. Regardless of the scenario, or how robust your disaster management plan is, there are a few practical steps every business must take in the wake of a hurricane or storm.

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