Emergency Management Programs in Long Term Care – Planning for When Bad Days Happen

Emergency Preparedness; Life Safety

Power grid failure, severe weather impact, hazardous materials release, another pandemic - Oh My!!! Bad days happen in our society and specifically within the realm of long term care (LTC) and assisted living (AL) facilities. Take an incident that recently occurred at an assisted living community, for example. A sprinkler pipe burst, flooding their clinical areas and mechanical room. Fortunately, they had a comprehensive emergency management program and operations plan, making them better prepared for the event they experienced.

Emergency Management Programs in Healthcare

Many consider healthcare facilities the light on the hill during the darkest hours due to their planning, resources, and ability to continue to care for their residents in the face of adversity. Staff, residents, families, and the community all look to healthcare facilities to be ready to provide for the residents.

 How can facilities plan for the next adverse event? The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), as well as other accrediting bodies, all require some facet of risk stratification and planning.  Consequently, emergency management programs are implemented to assess and mitigate risks where possible and provide a process for continuous planning and preparation for incident response and recovery. From risk assessments involving local community partners to training and exercising of staff, emergency management can encompass a significant amount of time and resources.

Incorporating an All-Hazards Approach

Creating an emergency management program that incorporates all-hazards planning, in addition to hazard-specific planning, is paramount to helping guide the facility's response. A foundation of a good emergency management program is an all-hazards approach. This is an integrated approach to emergency preparedness planning that considers the full spectrum of emergencies and disasters. It requires prior thought, frequent assessment, planning, and continual revision and updates and should incorporate broad approaches applicable within multiple types of incidents (e.g., building lockdown). This is unlike event-specific plans which are more detailed in their guidance to address known risks, including electronic health record system failure, loss of fire protection systems, and more.

Implementing Successful Emergency Response Plans

Just writing a plan is not enough if they are never adopted or utilized. The above-mentioned facility was able to respond and recover successfully because they actively implemented robust emergency management plans, which guided them in establishing their command center, managing internal flooding and power loss, and evacuating the building. Additionally, emergency management plans, including their full building evacuation plan (FBE), provided the leadership team and staff with pre-established tools for success, including job action sheets, resident preparation guides, and floor plans that identified stairwells for resident evacuation and for staff and first responders to travel up.

The facility's staff and residents were also trained, tested, and ready to respond. While the continual training of staff on the implementation of the plans and processes can be a challenge, it is essential for a successful response and recovery. Drills, exercises, and other approaches not only help to prepare staff and validate training but also identify additional gaps. 

Have you taken all the steps to assess the risks of, mitigate, plan for, respond to, and recover from your next bad day? If not, the AHCA's Emergency Preparedness Program Best Practice Guidebook can assist in developing and optimizing your customized Emergency Management Program and plans, including tools for success to help face your next adverse event. This AHCA webinar will also provide overview of the critical components of a comprehensive EPP, outlines various updated requirements, explores new high profile risks, and reviews best practices learned from real events.

​This article was written by Bobby Baker, Jensen Hughes Healthcare + Emergency Management Service Line Leader; Jim Garrow, ​Jensen Hughes Senior Emergency Management Consultant​.