Count Heads, Not Hats, When Planning for Disasters

If you call my office and ask to speak to… (…)
If you call my office and ask to speak to the CEO, I answer, “This is he.” Of course, if you asked for the CFO, I’d also answer, “This is he.” I wear several hats at YourCrisisTeam. Both the CEO and CFO hats are worn only a few hours a week since I’m also the senior healthcare preparedness specialist.
 
 
That’s the way it is in most healthcare facilities, too. The Emergency Manager is also the Facilities Manager at many hospitals, though we know of at least one whose primary “hat” is that of a Respiratory Therapist. In many lower acuity facilities, emergency preparedness falls to the Director of Nursing, the Administrator, or Security Chief.
 
 
The rest of the staff follows may also have commitments outside your facility. Some of your nursing staff have commitments as members of a Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT) or a Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT). In a disaster anywhere on your side of the Mississippi River, these resources are likely to be called up for up to 18 days of active duty. How many staff members also have National Guard or Reserve obligations? We have heard many hospital executives talk about their security staff being made up of off-duty police officers. You can count on losing them to their primary employer when disaster strikes.
 
 
The answer is NOT to eliminate these people. Their other assignments demonstrate their compassion and dedication, and they bring valuable experience and insight to your team. However, you must be aware of these commitments and build appropriate depth into the key areas of your staff.
 
 
In many hospitals, the decontamination team is staffed primarily from Emergency Department employees. In a chemical or biological incident, these people can either help decontaminate the injured, or they can help treat them in the ED once they are decontaminated. They can’t do both at the same time! Make sure your decon team draws from a wide variety of departments, with sufficient depth that you can staff one during any shift.
 
 
You need to get a feel for the extent of this “over-commitment” at your facility and determine what percentage of each workforce is likely to leave you under different circumstances. You might find that you should discount certain departments by 25% or even 33% just to make up for this possibility. Now, factor this into your plans. Imagine being called upon to surge by 20% of your facility’s capacity only to find out that your staff is 20% short!
 
 
This is just one of the areas in which preparedness is key. Ready for your FREE Preparedness consult?
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Topics: ICS, LTC

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