May 15, 2018 | | Comments 0
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There’s always someone looking at you: More emergency preparedness!

Once again, we tread the halls of emergency preparedness in search of context for some recent developments. I guess it is not inappropriate that this has become a more frequently touched upon subject, but I am hopeful that the weather patterns of last summer remain a distant memory, though the current situation in Hawaii does give one pause as a function of shifting likelihoods. At any rate, sending positive thoughts and vibrations to the folks in our 50th state in hopes that the tectonic manifestations will slow to a reasonable level.

First up, a couple of words about the recent unveiling of NFPA 3000 Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program. I have no doubt that any number of you have been working very diligently towards establishment of an ASHER Program within your organizations. And I suspect that you have encountered some of the same resistors when it comes time to try and actually conduct a practical exercise to see how effective (or not) the response might be (I can’t think of too many other exercise scenarios that could be more potentially disruptive to normal operations, but I think therein lies the most compelling reasons for wanting/needing to exercise this scenario). I’ve participated in/monitored a couple of these exercises and I will tell you firsthand that it’s tough to get really good results on that first try. Folks are nervous and tentative and there’ll be a whole host of folks who won’t be as inclined to participate in the exercise as you might want (and really don’t seem too concerned when they fall victim to the shooter—there is nothing quite like the indifference that can be experienced during these types of exercises), but you really must forge on. To my mind, beyond the likely survey scrutiny driven by the Sentinel Event Alert, this type of scenario falls squarely in the realm of “most likely to experience, least well prepared to respond” and the longer it takes to begin making substantive changes to your response plan—based on actual data generated through exercises—the further behind the curve it will be if there is an event in your community (an event that has become increasingly likely, pretty much no matter where you are).

As to the standard, I don’t know that NFPA 3000 brings anything particularly new to the party, but it does provide a codified reference point for a lot of the work we’re already doing. You need only to check out the table of contents for the standard to see some familiar concepts—risk assessment, planning/coordination, resource management, incident management, training, etc. I do think that where this will become most useful as a means of further integration of our preparedness and planning activities with those of our local community(ies). We need to be/get better prepared to respond to the chaos that is integral to such an event and hopefully this will provide common ground for continued program growth.

As an aside relative to all things EM, there is an indication that our friends from Chicago are starting to kick the tires a little more frequently when it comes to ensuring that all the required plan elements are in place. There is a truism that the survey tends to focus more on what has changed than on what has remained the same, as we’ve noted in the past, TJC has added a few things to the mix, so you want to make sure you have:

  • Continuity of operations planning, including succession planning and delegation of authority during emergencies
  • A process for requesting (and managing) an 1135 waiver to address care and treatment at an alternate care site
  • A plan/process for sheltering patients, staff, and visitors during an emergency, as applicable
  • Evidence that all your outlying clinic, etc., settings have participated in your emergency response exercises or actual events

I know there are instances in which some of these might not apply, but you need to be very diligent in outlining how and why these elements would not be applicable to your organization. I think the only one noted above that really could be dependent on your organization is if you don’t have any care locations outside of your main campus. But beyond that, all those other elements need to be in a place that the surveyors can find them. And don’t be afraid to reiterate the language in the applicable individual performance elements—fleshing out the process is a good idea, but you want them to be able to “see” how what you have in your plan reflects what is being required. I continue to maintain that hospitals do a very good job when it comes to emergency management, but there is also always room for improvement. I don’t want our improvement processes to get derailed by a draconian survey result, so make sure the “new” stuff has been captured and added to your Emergency Operations Plan (EOP).

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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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