The Boy Scouts' motto “Always Be Prepared” can often come in handy, especially when it comes to an emergency situation. Having working disaster and emergency preparedness plans in place before you need them, training your staff in advance and reviewing/testing the plans on an annual basis ensures you are prepared. You may never have to use either one, but if you do, you will have a more positive result in a potentially difficult time.
Though they are two separate requirements, disaster planning and emergency preparedness go hand in hand as you prepare your organization, your staff and your patients/customers for sudden issues.
We define an “emergency” as an unexpected circumstance that calls for immediate action. Your emergency preparedness plan describes how you prepare your staff for sudden situations, such as:
- A fire in the building
- A person is shocked or injured by an electrical outlet or cord in a warehouse
- A hazardous chemical spill happens at your facility
- Your company vehicle is rear-ended on the road by another vehicle
These are examples of items you must consider as you create your plan for an emergency or a situation that needs your immediate attention. How do you prepare your staff? How would you inform your patients and customers how to deal with these types of situations? This is your emergency preparedness program. It makes sure that no matter what happens your staff will be able to react appropriately and swiftly.
We define a “disaster” as a sudden, devastating event that brings loss, excessive damage or destruction. Disaster planning is based on global events that may affect a great multitude of people. Such examples include:
- A tornado takes out the power
- A hurricane is due to hit your service area
- A wildfire destroys a number of your patients' homes
- A heavy snowstorm prevents your staff from reporting to work
How have you and your staff prepared for these types of events? You need a plan for each type of event before the situation is at hand, and you need to make sure your entire staff is well informed of what will go into action in any event.
A few things a disaster plan should include are:
- A safe and quick evacuation plan
- A meeting location in case the organization is destroyed
- Offsite storage of data that can be accessed in an emergency or disaster
- A back-up way for patients/customers to contact you in case your phone outages
- An oxygen reserve for a major electrical failure
These are all examples of preparing your organization, your staff, your customers and your patients in the event of an emergency, disaster or catastrophe.
I’ve always lived by the phrase: “You get what you inspect, not what you expect.” Plan ahead for an emergency or disaster, prepare and test your plans, recognize where your shortcomings are and correct them as you place your plans into effect.