A detailed disaster preparedness plan can take months to finalize and implement, and having a unified, educated staff is vital to it being used successfully. For example, in one Texas hospital, the bonds that staff developed via regular disaster preparedness drills were key in keeping patients safe and supported during Hurricane Harvey.3 Staffing plans may look different for natural disasters, pandemics, and other crises, but each plan is equally important and, if possible, should be discussed prior to an emergency.
In a pandemic, the Center for Health Security suggests that staff be involved in a comprehensive and realistic planning process that emphasizes limiting the hospital spread of viruses and restricting the number of staff exposed to infected patients. This can be done through practices like proper PPE usage training and cohorting staff into dedicated units. Regular education and training drills on infection control precautions can help prepare your staff to act quickly and efficiently in times of need, like an influenza outbreak.4 In the event of shortages, work closely with your distributors and public health partners to identify alternative solutions and then afterward, plan for preventing future shortages.
For natural disasters, experts say organizations should be prepared to provide radios to emergency preparedness personnel so constant contact isn’t lost. Staff should also keep their ID badges on them at all times—both in and out of the hospital. With roads often closed and access restricted to the general public during emergencies, emergency and medical workers with identification can bypass roadblocks and other restrictions in order to get to work.2
If the disaster is something like a storm that meteorologists can predict ahead of time, plan to activate pre-established emergency contracts with your vendors so locations are stocked with appropriate supplies at least 72 hours after a storm arrives and are ready to be restocked as soon as the storm passes.2