Pandemics. Mass casualty incidents. Natural disasters. Emergencies such as these can quickly overwhelm even the most advanced, well-equipped, and fully staffed hospital. This is especially true if a facility’s Emergency Operations Plan, or EOP, is lacking information, out of date, or for some reason, inaccessible. 

An EOP, as described by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is a plan that “describes who will do what, as well as when, with what resources, and by what authority—before, during and immediately after an emergency.” In other words, the plan describes how an organization will respond to and recover from all hazards. 

Having an EOP in the healthcare environment is not an option. It’s a requirement for compliance with the Joint Commission and is a key part of the annual review process. Accordingly, plans must be inclusive of the six critical elements within the Joint Commission’s Emergency Management Standards: Communications. Resources and Assets, Safety and Security, Staff Responsibilities, Utilities, and Clinical Support Activities. 

So, does your healthcare facility’s current EOP measure up? Maybe the following questions can help you answer that all-important question. And, more importantly, answer it correctly.

Communications – Does your EOP outline key details for internal and external communication (as part of the Joint Commission’s EM.02.02.01)? Does the plan identify the individuals/parties involved in crafting as well as sharing the message(s). And, does the plan explain how such messages will be disseminated before, during, and after an emergency?

Resources and Assets – Does your EOP include a complete and current list of resources and assets (as part of the Joint Commission’s EM.02.02.03)? This list should include items such as personal protective equipment (PPE), generators and back-up generators, personnel, healthcare coalitions, etc. 

Safety and Security – Does your EOP include specific measures to support the continued safety and security of both staff and patients? Does it detail coordination efforts with state and local law enforcement, government officials, and others? And, does it explain how it will manage the handling of hazardous waste or worse, an incident?

Staff Responsibilities – Does your EOP explain, as FEMA suggests, who will do what, as well as when, with what resources, and by what authority? Does it reference the setting up of a command center, and who will lead the charge? 

Utilities – Does your EOP specify how the facility will continue to provide essential utilities, such as water and electricity, in the event of an emergency? Further, does the plan include information pertaining to the availability and use of medical gas and fuel? 

Clinical Support Activities – Does your EOP explain how the facility will ensure the uninterrupted care of patients, regardless of the conditions, in order to protect human life? Per the Joint Commission (EM.02.02.11), the plan should address how clinical services will react to emergencies and, in turn, how that will impact the facility to continue care, treatment, and services. 

While not specifically identified as one of the six critical elements within the Joint Commission’s Emergency Management Standards, there is something else to consider—Regular Testing and Evaluation. How would your facility’s EOP measure up during an actual emergency? If it has activated the plan during the COVID-19 pandemic, you already know the answer. If not, consider conducting an EOP exercise when feasible. 

For more than 16 years, BOLDplanning has helped public and private sector organizations, including hospitals, prepare comprehensive and actionable EOPs. Call 615.469.5558 or email info@BOLDplanning to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation now.