Archive September 2017 XVIII, No. 9

Safety: Are You Ready for a Disaster?

How to comply with CMS's Emergency Preparedness Rule.

Leslie Mattson

Leslie Mattson, RN, BSHM


aftermath of Hurricane Katrina LESSONS LEARNED The devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina demonstrated the importance of having a plan in place when disaster strikes.

You have until Nov. 16 to comply with CMS's Emergency Preparedness Rule (, which mandates that you have policies and procedures in place for how your staff will react to natural and man-made disasters, and how your facility will work with federal, state and local authorities to coordinate community-wide responses to such large-scale emergency events as pandemic flu — H1N1 influenza virus, for example — hurricanes, tornados, fires, earthquakes, power outages, chemical spills, and nuclear or biological terrorist attacks. Don't worry. You can show Medicare surveyors that you're ready to handle whatever Mother Nature and mankind throw at you by taking this crash course in crisis management.

1Develop an "all hazards" response plan. Your plan should outline how you'll deal with direct emergencies that impact your facility, such as an active shooter, and indirect emergencies that impact your entire community, such as a bioterrorism event. Consider internal and external emergency scenarios from a generic viewpoint and then drill down to specific line-item concerns for high-risk scenarios. You should determine the potential risks that are most likely to occur at your center and in your community, and prioritize your efforts to prepare for those emergency events. For example, a surgery center in Miami might focus on hurricane preparedness, while a hospital in Denver might zero in on surviving a catastrophic blizzard.

Kaiser Permanente's Hazard Vulnerability Analysis tool (, one of the many online resources available to help guide this exercise, asks you to rate the probability of 60 events occurring at your facility. You plug in ratings of the severity of each event's impact on human life, property damage and interruption of your everyday services, as well as your staff and facility's level of preparedness to handle the emergencies. The tool will then automatically generate a percentage risk score for each potential event; the higher the score, the higher the priority you should place on preparing for that particular scenario.

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