10 key areas for hospital disaster preparedness

By Eric Vandenbroucke

Establishing a disaster-resilient healthcare facility is becoming an exceedingly more complex problem, and even hospitals that feel confident in the resiliency of their building and contingency plans may find gaps and inconsistencies with the reality of today’s changing world.  

In IMEG’s executive guide, “The Importance of Healthcare Resiliency: Preparing Your Hospital for a Crisis,” we address five key areas or situations in which any hospital may be vulnerable: natural disasters and structural integrity, MEP infrastructure, physical security, mass casualty events and infectious outbreaks, and cyber security. Based on this guide, here’s a checklist of key items to consider while addressing resiliency at your facility. 

  1. Cyber security: Guarding against this vulnerability goes beyond protecting computers and tablets – it should be a single, unified process that considers IT, building systems, and clinical equipment wholistically as opposed to separate system silos. 
  2. Temporary utility connections: Ensure your facility has a backup generator and redundancy for chilled water and boilers. 
  3. Contingency for potable water: If your supply is interrupted, how will you flush toilets, wash and sterilize equipment, or provide drinking water? Determine how much water you need and whether you can have on-site storage or if you should contract with a pumper truck. Then enact procedures that save and reuse water (e.g., using recycled water to flush toilets or installing a roof drain for condensation recovery). 
  4. Infrastructure equipment location: Locate critical MEP equipment on higher levels of your facility to reduce the risk of flood damage – particularly if your hospital is in a floodplain or below sea level. 
  5. Access control: Restrict access points to your building for easier monitoring and potential visitor screening. Separate your visitor and employee parking lots and use evenly lit, well-distributed lights to increase visibility and improve security camera coverage. 
  6. Emergency command center: Is your emergency response room hardened or located below grade? Ensure your facility has emergency power, access, and lighting in the event of a natural disaster. 
  7. Hardness of systems: Reinforce individual systems within your hospital to make them more resilient against disasters. 
  8. MEP infrastructure redundancy: Baseline redundancy for critical infrastructure systems (such as boilers, medical gas, and power) is required by code for healthcare facilities. However, additional redundancy should be a key consideration for disaster preparedness. Consider what would happen if any component of your major infrastructure failed – and how you could safeguard against this potential problem.  
  9. Infrastructure loading shedding: Provide a detailed plan for how you can shut down units, whether manual or automatic. Also provide a prioritization matrix and test it often. 
  10. Planning and practice: Research and gather information for your facility, then create a risk analysis and prioritization matrix. From this, you can prepare a strategic resilience plan and an operations, readiness, and training framework. 

To learn more, follow the links below or download “The Importance of Healthcare Resiliency: Preparing Your Hospital for a Crisis.” 

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