When planning for an emergency, healthcare facilities should consider the broad range of hazards that could potentially affect New Hanover County, as well as facility-specific hazards. There are several things to consider when developing an emergency plan, including but not limited to:
- Power outages
- Missing clients/residents
- Proximity of the facility to flood-prone areas
- Nearby facilities where hazardous materials may be housed
- Communications plans for notifying emergency officials, facility staff and residents, and family members of clients
It is important to engage facility staff and use a team approach to emergency planning. Your staff's experience and knowledge of facility-specific hazards can be valuable in shaping a comprehensive emergency plan for your facility. Hazard vulnerability assessment tools can be used to quantify risks based on facts, experience, and documented events.
An essential part of emergency planning for healthcare facilities is building partnerships with agencies and individuals that will support your facility's emergency plans. Before disaster strikes, it is important to develop strong partnerships with local healthcare preparedness coalitions, emergency management, and first responders. These partners can prove vital to the continuous operation of your facility during an actual emergency.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services preparedness regulations require regular emergency exercises to test plans and document gaps and opportunities for improvement. Information on opportunities to participate in joint exercises, and inclusion in databases to receive pertinent preparedness information, may be accessed through the Southeastern Healthcare Preparedness Coalition and the New Hanover County Special Needs Task Force.
The sharing of knowledge, accessibility to resources and qualified personnel, and a better understanding of how processes work during an emergency, are just a few benefits of being involved in multi-agency planning and information sharing.
The need for an alternate power source is extremely important and should be planned for well in advance of an emergency. If your facility does not have an on-site generator that is adequate to support the critical power needs of all facility residents, consider establishing a contract with a vendor that can provide additional generators in an emergency situation.
In addition to identifying a generator provider, it is essential to have proper connections installed where a generator can be hooked up and not interfere with entries, exits, and the air quality of the facility. It is also important to have multiple staff members trained to operate the generator and know what parts of the facility the generator will power. Ensuring a backup plan for fuel and understanding burn rate for your generator is critical. This information should be incorporated into your facility's emergency plans.
In the event of an emergency, the county may call for evacuations and open shelters for displaced residents. However, these shelters are intended for use by the general public and are not well-suited for individuals that need specific medical equipment or care. Healthcare facilities should have transportation agreements and relocation plans in place well before an emergency situation, in case evacuation of the area is necessary.
Depending on the type of emergency, residents may be asked to "shelter in place," or stay where they are. Be prepared before disaster strikes by storing provisions for your clients and designating areas suitable for sheltering in place. When identifying these areas, try to choose interior rooms with as many walls between the occupants and the outside as possible. It is also important to choose areas that can be sealed off from the outside, in case outdoor air quality is the reason for sheltering in place.
It is important that your facility staff, residents, and family members of clients stay informed during an emergency. If the county's Emergency Operations Center is activated, emergency information and instructions will be provided at EmergencyNHC.com. Bookmark the page and check it frequently for storm updates and emergency instructions from county officials. The latest weather forecast and emergency information will also be available on TV and the radio.
Other ways to stay informed:
- Register for emergency alerts by phone, text, or email
- Sign up for New Hanover County emergency news updates
- Subscribe to National Weather Service updates
- Follow New Hanover County on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio
The transportation of facility residents and staff that may need to be relocated or evacuated is of paramount importance, and is the responsibility of the facility. During an emergency, local government agencies may have limited resources for transportation, which will likely not be available or adequate to assist in transporting patients from a healthcare facility.
When creating your facility's emergency plan prior to a disaster, identify transportation services that could be used to relocate patients, or to get staff to the facility if roads are not easily passable. As part of your preparedness planning, establish a contract with a local transportation company to retain their services in the event of an emergency. Be sure to confirm the company's access to vans and buses that can accommodate the needs of your facility's residents and staff.