May 14, 2009 | | Comments 0
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Symposium coverage: A call to arms with emergency preparedness

From the Las Vegas desert I bring you great tidings of opportunity.

Joe Cappiello’s presentation this morning at the 3rd Annual Hospital Safety Center Symposium revolves around a discussion of how we in healthcare can better integrate, cooperate, and thus be able to “respondetate” more effectively with our community partners.

As part of a quick recap of the latest H1N1 developments (basically we’re in a very close monitoring situation), Joe touched on the topic of the worried well during these last two weeks and opined that we should consider this a dress rehearsal if the H1N1 virus should come back from summer vacation with a nasty disposition.

Joe then asked whether audience members felt that their organizations were prepared for an emergency. A few somewhat hesitant hands were raised, and Joe’s follow-up was this (and I am paraphrasing — my intracranial digital recorder is not what it once was): What does “prepared” mean?

Certainly (and this was indeed noted), the answer is going to vary from organization to organization, based on a number of factors (taking us back to the gestalt of preparedness), but Joe made the point that, at present, there are no recognized metrics for preparedness — in other words, no standardized, measurable way to compare preparedness levels internally or externally.

He then invoked the adage, “If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it,” to which I would add, “And if you can’t manage it, you can’t improve it”. As with all things in the physical environment, perfection is an ideal, but very rarely attainable, and if we can’t measure our progress, it makes it way more challenging to know when we’ve reached the enchanted land of preparedness.

Joe ended this particular segment with a call to everyone in the room to hop on the bandwagon and to advocate for the establishment of standardized metrics soon, soon, soon! So, I am taking up that call and I pass it on to you. In the end, we’ll all be the better for it.

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Filed Under: Emergency management


Steve MacArthur About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with The Greeley Company in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Briefings on Hospital Safety. Contact Steve at

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