October 19, 2011 | | Comments 2
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What we have here is a failure to communicate, or is it a water failure? Sewer failure?

Another survey finding that’s been bubbling up to the top lately relates to your utility system disruption/failure response plans. EC.02.05.01, EP #9 requires hospitals to have written procedures for responding to utility system disruptions. I’ve seen a number of folks tagged for not having the full “suite” of response procedures; if you have a utility system, then you need to have a written procedure for responding.

Now I would think that as a function of your incident command structure, (which is, like, totally compliant with the requirements of the National Incident Management System), you should be able to appropriately manage utility disruptions. However, I guess that sort of begs the question: Do you stand up your IC for utility systems issues or is there a reluctance (or something similar to that) to pull the trigger when push comes to a little bigger push? And, once again, it comes down to how (and perhaps more importantly, how well) you educate/communicate/simplify your frontline folks.

My general experience, fortunately, has been that disruptions to single systems tend to be rather more transient than not–something that can be “endured” until we get things back in order. And I think an important consideration when it comes to endurance is having a simple structure, based on what one might consider “normal” operations. This way, staff don’t have to worry so much about getting from Point A to Point Z because they are sufficiently familiar with B, C, D, and so on. They can respond quickly and appropriately, regardless of what’s going on (or isn’t going on, which I guess is a good indicator of a disruption).

So, do you have written plans for each of your utility systems? When’s the last time you had a chance to practice on some of the more esoteric systems? I’d love to hear what folks are doing, and I suspect that I am by no means the only one.

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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 stevemacsafetyspace@gmail.com.

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  1. Amen! Were in the middle of updating all of that info now. What do you do when your electrical power provider provides you with “dirty power” several episodes of 50 volt swings in each direction for varying milliseconds? We continue to pay for the fall out for these events ranging from $14K in power supply repairs to our CT and down from there. Were always replacing an electrical component of some type somewhere.
    The utility is not receptive to our complaints even when we present them with documented results from our power monitoring system. We cannot afford a facility wide power conditioner.
    As far as Patient Safety goes what if this “power” destroys a central monitor or or other patient treatment device while it is in service on the patient? We continue to protect the most sensitive equipment with corded power conditioners as we can.

  2. http://www.awwa.org/Publications/BreakingNewsDetail.cfm?ItemNumber=57197&showLogin=N

    This is a publication that AWWA put out, its an emergency water supply planning guide, which has lots of good guidance. Its difficult to script every emergency in great detail without writing a dictionary size EOP, but its a good conversation to have with folks in your organization sometimes to get to the realization of the impact. We used a municipal water shut down due to recent construction to have conversations with staff about roles and responsibilities.

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