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Organizational preparedness in a disaster situation


Though disaster is not the most popular or enjoyable topic for discussion, it is still a very
important topic for every business in every industry to engage in. Disaster
often resides in the category of the unknown; unknown time, unknown place,
unknown effects. The unknown makes disaster very difficult to plan for, but it
is not impossible. There can be natural disasters and man-made disasters and
all constitute emergencies. An emergency is any unplanned event that can cause
deaths or significant injuries; or that can shut down your business, disrupt
operations, cause physical or environmental damage, or threaten the reputation
or revenue. A truly comprehensive program should deal with day to day
disruptions as well as disasters including the recovery from such disturbances.
This type of program can protect the entire community because it enables the
government and the business community to operate during emergencies. Effective
emergency management requires rapid response. To do this a healthcare facility
must assess hazards, base their plans on these hazard assessments, prepare the
staff, coordinate with the community and ensure readiness through exercises,
training, and education.


After this video discussion you will
understand the following objectives:

1. To be
able to identify the responsibility of being prepared for disasters and

understand the need for mitigation activities, such as drills and training
exercises in order to assess for weakness and vulnerabilities, and identify
areas needing improvement.

To understand
the need for a communications infrastructure

To recognize
the purpose of building a system of interoperability

develop an understanding of the need for a command center.



Before a comprehensive program can be
implemented, this author believes that it is necessary to know the
organization. The disaster preparedness team is responsible for understanding
the layout of the organization as well as the function of each department. The
video below touches on this point. The physician in the video is on the
disaster management team at his hospital. He is headed to an earthquake drill
to test readiness, find areas of weakness, and areas that can be improved upon.
He discusses the importance of practicing the recall system in real time and
making sure the entire staff is prepared for a disaster. Some important
highlights and points to consider include:

Can those on call reach their destination? There must be a plan in place for receiving
assistance if there is no way to reach the building i.e. trees or power lines are
blocking major routes to the facility 

2. Damage assessment. Executives must be available to assess the
amount of damage done to the structure of the facility. It must be determined
if it is safe to continue to operate within the building.

3. Can patients be treated at the facility? Is the
emergency department functional?
there enough supplies available to treat all types of patients i.e. critical
patients, or do they need to be sent to another facility?

4. Conditions of other health care facilities. It must be determined which facilities can
accept patients and which will be sending patients out to other facilities.
Your facility may be needed to assist others.

5. How are other emergency services functioning i.e. are all ambulances operational?

6. Who is available; emergency surgeons, orthopedic surgeons,
nurse, techs, etc.

7. Relieving those who were on a long shift. Are those relieving others prepared for a
lengthy stay?

8. Who is running the command center? Remember that communications and logistics are
vital to the success of an emergency/disaster preparedness program.


This video discussion was about the
importance of having an emergency/disaster preparedness plan in place within a
medical facility, particularly a hospital. Disasters can strike at any time and
it is the responsibility of health care professionals to be prepared for the
worst of situations. If your facility has not recently reviewed or practiced
the emergency/disaster plan it is imperative that you do so soon. Training
exercises and drills only serve to improve the readiness of your staff,
decreasing your liability. These drills also serve to reveal areas of weakness
or vulnerability as well as areas that need improvement or updating. Do not
underestimate the devastation that a disaster can cause.
Make sure your
facility is ready for what may come.

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