May 14, 2009 | | Comments 0
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Symposium coverage: Inoperable generators and resulting threats to life

Greetings from Las Vegas! Earlier today at the 3rd Annual Hospital Safety Center Symposium, former Joint Commission environment of care guru (and current man of the people) Dean Samet of Smith, Seckman, Reid covered changes in the way that hospitals are scored during surveys.

As a subset of this discussion, Dean was covering some examples of what might result in a finding of immediate threat to health (and safety), including a scenario of an emergency generator being out of service for an extended period of time, without having a backup in place.

This, of course, begged the question of what constitutes an “extended period.” Fortunately, we had another ex-Joint Commission celebrity in our midst, Dean’s “old” boss, Joe Cappiello, now of Cappiello & Associates. Joe played a significant role in the development of The Joint Commission’s emergency management focus — but please don’t hold it against him! So Dean ever so suavely put the question of “extended period” to Joe.

Joe indicated that a number of specific, and thus variable, situational elements would need to be considered in determining whether an immediate threat was indeed in play. Included in that consideration would be any conditions that might increase an organization’s immediate reliance on their emergency power capabilities. For instance, if your sole generator pooped out in the middle of hurricane season and there’s a storm brewing, you had best have something in motion to compensate for the elevated risk and do it pretty darn quickly.

Basically, it all comes back (as all roads lead to Rome) to the risk assessment; in this case, yours and the surveyor’s. There are few greater risks to manage than no emergency power capability, so the bar is set that much higher.

Might be worth inclusion in an upcoming drill scenario…

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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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