Every time there is an emergency, such as a hurricane, tornado, or flood, there are reports about the difficult decisions nursing homes have to make during the emergency. Nursing homes and long-term care facilities need to take measures to develop comprehensive emergency plans.
Start your disaster planning by evaluating the potential risk. What type of disaster might your facility face? This question needs must be answered because each type of disaster requires different procedures. For example, a fire requires immediate evacuation while severe storm requires evaluation of the facility to look for damage and utility outages. Make sure your disaster plan covers every potential emergency.
Create a Plan
No matter where your facility is located, your patients are likely to be exposed to some type of emergency – tornado, power outage, chemical spill, bioterrorism, or a flu epidemic. Creating a disaster plan must be a top priority. You need to have a written document that your staff can use to should an emergency arise. Your plan needs to outline the responsibilities for all facility personnel, including maintenance and other support staff.
Practice and Test
Practice implementing the disaster plan with your staff with periodic drills for emergencies your facility might face – fire, tornado, etc. Make sure drills are scheduled to include all shift personnel. Test your emergency telephone contact list and update as needed. Also, test any critical equipment, such as generators and transportation necessary for evacuation. Make sure you document all of your practice and testing so you can prove your facility is staying on top of disaster planning in the case of liability issues. Update your plan whenever necessary.
Preparation is Key
One of the toughest decisions a nursing home administrator must make in a disaster is whether to stay or evacuate residents to a safer location. “Sheltering in place” may be best as moving residents who have complicated health conditions and those with severe dementia can complicate care. Residents might be exposed to traffic accidents, long rides on jammed highways, and possibly dangerous weather conditions. If the disaster is community or region-wide, shelters, when reached, may be understaffed and unable to meet their needs, placing residents at an even greater risk.
Regardless of whether the nursing home administration makes the decision to stay or evacuate, planning and preparedness can make a significant difference in the comfort and safety of residents during an emergency. A facility’s emergency preparedness plan should include detailed and specific evacuation plans including destinations and transportation, communications, ample emergency supplies for the nursing home residents, back-up generators, and more. We will discuss the contents of an emergency preparedness plan in Part 2: Contents of a Good Emergency Plan.
At Highland Risk Services, we are ready to help you assess the impact of unplanned emergencies on long-term care insurance policies and product. Contacts us to ask any questions you have or to get assistance evaluating how emergency planning influences the service you provide your clients. Please let us serve you by calling one of our two offices in Chicago at 847-832-9100 or Lansing at 517-676-7100.