In 2015, 10 were to blame for losses of more than a billion dollars in the U.S. For hospitals and healthcare facilities, that can mean losing millions of dollars if weather impacts operations for even one day.
In 2015, 10 were to blame for losses of more than a billion dollars in the U.S. For hospitals and healthcare facilities, that can mean losing millions of dollars if weather impacts operations for even one day. Yet healthcare facilities are often glaringly unprepared for weather-related disasters.
The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston was forced to perform at a reduced capacity and lost hundreds of millions of dollars in 2008 after the devastation of Hurricane Ike. The cost of unpreparedness is substantial: According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, if facilities invest in disaster preparedness, they’ll recoup $4 to $11 for every dollar spent.
It is a wise facility manager who plans, prepares, and coordinates well before being ambushed by such an event. Facilities can use clear-weather planning to prepare ahead of an advancing storm by implementing these three crucial practices:
1. Fight apathy.
Questions like “Why are we doing this again?” or comments concerning the likelihood of a disaster will plague you. When there hasn’t been a significant weather event in recent memory, it’s a constant struggle to stay prepared. But you must be persistent; it’s imperative that the day a disaster does strike, you and your staff are practiced and ready to make sure your facility holds up and patients remain safe.
2. Prepare for secondary effects.
Brace for a wide range of weather-related events; what you think of and prepare for isn’t always what happens. For example, one facility I worked with experienced a severe thunderstorm that caused local flooding. While the facility itself wasn’t flooded, it caused a secondary effect that the facility hadn’t prepared for: The surrounding flooding caused debris to block the sewer system, which caused the sewers to back up and eventually fail.
While it may be easy to think through direct impacts, the additional complications of severe weather are often overlooked. Those secondary and tertiary effects should be a vital part of the planning as well.
3. Coordinate, coordinate, coordinate.
A variety of people perform critical functions in an emergency: engineers, trauma coordinators, emergency room nurses, safety officers, and more. Whether you’re a large health system with your own dedicated emergency managers or a smaller hospital that has someone performing emergency management as a secondary job, coordinating disaster preparations for a walk-in clinic is going to look different than coordinating for an inpatient rehabilitation center. Whether the disaster is a tornado, hurricane, or blizzard, ensure you not only have plans for every location, but also have everyone on the same page.
Too often, due to juggling multiple priorities, decision makers don’t keep weather-related events top of mind when the weather is nice. That means being unprepared when weather-related disasters strike, causing safety and financial problems. When the forecast calls for sunshine and roses, that’s actually the perfect time to start planning for weather-related disasters to mitigate the risk to your facility.