But We Have a Good Plan!

A regular review of your emergency operations plan, policies and… (…)
During a recent discussion, the safety director of a long-term care facility expressed frustration with upper-level management at their reluctance to review and revise the facility’s emergency operations plan. “It was good when we wrote it 21 years ago. Why do we need to change it?”
 
Besides compliance with the law (more on that in a minute), let’s discuss why a regular review of your emergency operations plan, policies and procedures are essential to preparedness, even if (and that’s a huge “if”) it was a perfect plan when it was created.
 
The United States Marine Corps has been in business since 1775. It was pretty good then, but it hasn’t rested on the reputation it earned in Tripoli in 1805. The reasons:
 
  • The threats they face are constantly changing.
  • The tools available to them are constantly evolving.
  • The interests they must protect have broadened, from 13 colonies to risks around the world.
 
In healthcare, the factors are the same:
 
  • As our equipment becomes more interconnected, its vulnerabilities to electric power loss, internet interruption and even hacking increase greatly.
  • The residents and patients we protect have changed. Not only are they older, on average, but with increased concerns about dementia, and probably a greater variety of languages spoken than in the past.
  • The tools available to us, both internally and within our community, have changed.
  • Our staff turns over frequently, taking with it years of institutional knowledge, but bringing in new ideas and energies that should be focused on patient safety.
  • We can’t get it all right the first time. Start by focusing on the risks that have the highest potential impact, and, when you’ve reached a comfort level with them, take on the next most concerning risk.
 
As promised, a word on compliance: most states, most accrediting agencies like The Joint Commission, and now the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services require an annual review and revision of plans, as well as a review following an exercise of those plans or after activation of your emergency plans.
 
Review and revision should not be a casual act. There are several valuable inputs to consider:
 
  • Local emergency management professionals, who understand both regional threats and regional resources;
  • Industry associations’ publications and discussions about risks and preparedness ideas in your specific field;
  • A review of exercises and events, major and minor, in your facility and within your whole community;
  • You: as someone who assumes responsibility for preparedness, you should be saving anecdotes about events, discussions, and concerns that should be addressed in your emergency plans and your preparedness training.
 
Think like the Marines. How can we take a good plan, and make it better? What should we focus on this year, to improve our preparedness, before the crisis?
 
If you’d like a professional review of your Emergency Operations Plan, contact us.
Categories: Emergency Management

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