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Involve Physicians in Your Hospital's Disaster Plans

Scott Wallask, for HealthLeaders Media, February 24, 2010

One thing is clear when it comes to Joint Commission surveyors reviewing your disaster plans: If people from various departments can speak to their roles in emergency management, you'll be in better graces.

During an emergency management review, surveyors may ask to see your hospital's hazard vulnerability analysis (which ranks the likelihood of disasters occurring against their potential consequences), emergency operations plan, and any mutual aid agreements with outside parties. Some surveyors also conduct a tabletop drill, in which a disaster scenario is role-played in a conference room.

Surveyors often look to various department managers to participate in these discussions, rather than the lead emergency management planner, as a way to test how many people are familiar with the facility's disaster plan.

In fact, George Mills, FASHE, CEM, CHFM, senior engineer at The Joint Commission, has occasionally mentioned that if an emergency manager talks too much during the review, he might ask the manager to make some coffee as a way to force other people in the room to participate.

Having a physician familiar with disaster planning available during The Joint Commission's review is probably the biggest advantage you can obtain. Other important, but perhaps not obvious, representatives might be a nursing supervisor, materials management director, infection control practitioner, pharmacy director, and chief financial officer.

Skaggs Regional Medical Center in Branson, MO, was visited by The Joint Commission last year and completed a tabletop drill that involved a tornado hitting the hospital, said Lou Smith, RN, CHSP, CPHRM, safety and risk manager at the hospital. Smith is in charge of emergency planning.

During the session, she kept quiet and let the emergency management team do the talking. The tornado scenario was no problem, given that staff had drilled on that type of event before.

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