From hospitals temporarily losing power to disasters causing mass casualties and total facility destruction, health care organizations have learned valuable lessons and implemented important changes to help them better prepare for future emergencies, according to results from the 2014 Emergency Management Survey conducted by Health Facilities Management (a sister publication of Trustee), the American Society for Healthcare Engineering, the Association for the Healthcare Environment and the Association for Healthcare Resource & Materials Management. Lessons include:

• Even the best-laid communication plans among internal and community partners can be improved, and it often takes a real-life emergency to pinpoint weak spots in plans.

• All area resources that can be utilized in an emergency should be identified. This includes mapping out all supply chain logistics for ensuring that wireless communication, water, food, bedding, linens, fuel for generators and other items can be brought quickly on-site.

• Emergency exercises should be coordinated with local authorities, including public health systems, if an organization is to perform optimally during an emergency.

• Surge capacity contingency plans should cover sleeping accommodations and other needs of staff when they must remain in place.

Many hospitals have added infrastructure resources to address disasters, terrorism or mass casualties. Forty-five percent of respondents have additional fuel and emergency supply storage, while 42 percent have flexible incident command centers and 38 percent have additional generator capacity.

Meanwhile, 37 percent of respondents have advanced security and lockdown systems, and 4 percent said an active shooter incident had resulted in emergency operations plan activation in the past five years.

A common theme of respondents was the importance of exercising the plans that are put in place, and the challenges of doing so. Twenty-one percent of respondents identified staff training in response skills as a major challenge in emergency preparedness and another 54 percent said it was a minor challenge. The largest challenge identified among respondents was unfunded mandates for emergency preparedness, with 39 percent calling this a major challenge.

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