10 tips for mass evacuations in healthcare facilities
Planning and responding to workplace emergencies is not an easy task to be taken, far less conducting emergency mass evacuations in healthcare facilities. Managers face multiple hurdles that make evacuations a challenge. Therefore this blog presents 10 tips for effective mass evacuations regarding aspects that are often overlooked.
1. Patient Tracking. During the evacuation, having a patient tracking system is crucial for both internal (management, doctors, nurses) and external (families, authorities) stakeholders. Having touch-points before and after the evacuation should include:
- Inpatient census
- Arriving at the Assembly Point
- Arriving at the Discharge Site
- Arriving at the Staging Area
- Arriving at the receiving hospital
- Leaving the patient care unit
- Leaving the Assembly Point
- Leaving the Discharge Site
- Leaving the Staging Area
2. Use common language for patient placement efforts. Not all hospitals use the same language or categories to identify their patients and clinical capabilities, therefore communication can be improved when switching acronyms, codes or specific organizational terms to common language so that everyone understands the commands.
3. Develop a directory that facilitates patient placement efforts. Patient placement efforts are one of the hardest challenges managers face when conducting an evacuation, especially when it’s an emergency. Therefore, having a resource guide complete with the region’s hospital contact information and clinical capabilities is a great idea. Don’t forget to identify the number of patients each facility can potentially accommodate. This can be stored both digital and physical as it can be easier to work with a paper directory.
4. Develop a multidisciplinary Patient Destination Team. Including different hospitals and specialties that cover all the patient’s needs facilitates effective patient placement activities during an evacuation, it buys you time that it’s one of the most valuable assets you could count on in case of an emergency.
5. Encourage staff to participate in the planning process. Communication can vary between hospital personnel as it starts to spread out. For that reason staff should be actively participating in the planning process and exercise the specific roles that they will be required to fill during the evacuation.
6. Keep disaster equipment and supplies safe. Storing disaster equipment and supplies in storage areas on patient units so it’s easier to access when an emergency happens.
7. Think of all the resources you have available! When a crisis occurs it’s difficult to think clearly, so keep in mind that doors, mattresses and other flat surfaces can be used for rapid patient evacuation.
8. Emergency lighting can save you. Sufficient emergency lighting can be highly beneficial on emergency response operations, that’s why you shouldn’t let this category out of your response plan.
9. Anticipate communication failure. Losing telephone, internet and radio communication is something facilities can face, thus maintaining effective lines of internal communication among patient care floors and hospital incident command systems is crucial.
10. Even after the evacuation is completed, maintain the phone bank on. Even if all families have been notified, don’t cut out this communication line as other members of the same family may still call the hospital looking for information about their loved ones. Not always family members communicate with each other!