Emergency preparedness is the healthcare field that ensures a proper response to disasters and emergency situations. This includes the readiness of the staff, facility, community, and resources to be used towards mitigating the possible negative effects of a disaster. In case an emergency occurs, a hospital or any other healthcare-related organization/facility can address the issue if prepared. There are multiple types of problems that require medical implications. Thus, disasters can be natural, man-made, and hybrid. While natural disasters occur due to natural processes, which can have various causes, and man-made ones are caused by accident or purposefully by people, hybrid disasters are a combination of both. Thus, there are multiple types of challenges that require emergency preparedness. This is why an all-hazards approach can be beneficial due to the wide possibilities of use. An all-hazards approach is especially useful since it focuses on all possible emergencies and disasters during the planning phase. Thus, emergency preparedness, especially when it comes to the all-hazards approach, is essential for facilities to take into consideration for the sake of the stakeholders (doctors, nurses, management staff, and patients).
Disaster Management Importance
It is certain that disaster management is a critical field that can help save multiple lives and have various other positive connotations. First and foremost, this domain contributes to a minimization of health risks. Multiple patients who are in need of medical help can receive services quickly, efficiently, and based on their individual circumstances. Moreover, there is a possibility of reducing the negative impact of the emergency. This includes long-term health damage and even death in case the issue is confronted proficiently and in a timely matter. Disaster management also helps build an environment based on resilience and flexibility. Thus, healthcare facilities are able to adapt to any situation, implement new tasks, and achieve results despite the objectives being nuanced. Moreover, managing emergencies and disasters is directly connected with safety improvement, which is one of the vital concepts in medicine. Based on the evidence, disaster management is a significant field that needs to be taken into consideration by any healthcare organization that wants to succeed in providing quality care even under challenging conditions.
Agencies / Organizations
There are several agencies and organizations that assist healthcare providers with resources and information in regard to emergency management. First, it is essential to mention HHCs as state agencies that confront a vast array of problems within the medical field, including emergencies. Each US state has HCCs consisting of local organizations ready to put effort into maintaining a safe community, which is often achieved through collaboration in mitigating risk factors or adverse outcomes as a result of a disaster. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a federal agency that also has the mission of maintaining safety through disease prevention and control (2019). Another national organization is the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), which works with hospitals, health organizations, and other entities to control and prevent emergencies and disasters (Public Health Emergency, 2021). Thus, both local and federal agencies are designed to assist healthcare workers in regard to management during emergency situations that require collaborative work to mitigate possible negative outcomes.
Disaster Life Cycle
The life cycle of a disaster consists of four phases which are connected and addressed differently. The first one is mitigation, and it relates to the actions which are aimed towards harm reduction. Thus, healthcare organizations can mitigate more damage by applying certain techniques which can ameliorate some of the adverse outcomes. The second stage within the lifecycle is preparedness. Preparedness and mitigation are contrasting concepts since this particular phase consists of planning and training for some events that can not be addressed through prevention. Thus, organizations apply educational measures and planning implementations to be ready for possible difficulties. The response is the phase that occurs after the emergency or disaster takes place. Thus, this concept refers to how the healthcare organization has responded to the challenge and whether the approach was beneficial. Last but not least, the recovery illustrates the efforts towards restoration after the disaster. During this stage, healthcare organizations are focused on reducing the stress and risk related to the aftermath of the event.
Incident Command Center
In order for the emergency response to be efficient and effective, it is essential to ensure that the command structure is centralized. The function of such an approach is to create coordination and confront the disaster or emergency from multiple perspectives. The main concepts included in the structure of such centers are command, operations, logistics, and administration. Thus, preliminary educational and resource planning, tactical carrying out of the plan, ensuring necessary services and resources are available, and monitoring budgets and documentation are the components within operation commands. Multiple stakeholders are to be included in such initiatives, starting from the government, local authorities, healthcare providers, volunteers, healthcare organizations, and others. Thus, cooperation ensures such command centers fulfill their primary tasks, which are to increase safety and decrease adverse outcomes.
Capacities of Disaster Response
Disaster response capacities refer to all the resources that are available to be utilized in order for the emergency to be addressed. There are several factors that form the core system of any disaster response capacity. Thus, the implemented policies, available resources, coordination between entities, information management, logistics, services, and the community’s ability to respond are all included in the notion of disaster response capacity. Depending on the capacity of the country, state, healthcare organization, or facility, the issues will be addressed accordingly. This refers to the importance of maximizing the possibility to respond adequately to possible crises that can compromise the health and safety of the general population. The bigger the capacity, the greater the chance that the benefits will outweigh the negative implications, and an emergency will be addressed in a way that is positive for all stakeholders.
Ensuring Capacity Functionality
While it is inevitable that addressing disaster response capacities is essential, it is vital to consider the efficiency of the implementation. Specifically, mitigating possible risks by ensuring these capacities are appropriate may significantly reduce possible risks. First, disaster response capacity has to be the priority for the organization responsible for the initiative. Moreover, it is crucial to educate and train staff members and volunteers in regards to responding to the disasters accordingly. Also, knowing about the available resources and the capacity needed during a disaster can be beneficial for managing shortages. Furthermore, developing surge capacity will create an easier transition from a regular regime to an emergency one. It is especially critical when the situation requires flexibility and a fast response. By having a set structure and knowledge in place, it is easier to confront the situation while minimizing the possible mistakes such as taking in too many patients or calling in staff members that are not particularly necessary instead of the crucial ones based on the circumstances.
The surge capacity illustrated the scenario in which a facility will have to provide services to as many patients as possible, which is often the case during disasters. Thus, surge capacity is the maximum capacity of patients to whom medical professionals can provide services, which is a higher number than the usual rate. This measurement can be assessed by examining the occupancy rate as well as the available empty beds that can be utilized. In order for the surge capacity to be planned and developed for disaster lifecycle, it is essential to examine the available resources. The usual occupancy rate, number of beds, staff members, resources such as medication, tools, and others can be identified and utilized during surge capacity planning. Thus, resources (both human and administrative) can affect the surge capacity. Suppose the hospital does not have enough beds, nurses, or rooms for all the individuals who need medical health. In that case, the surge capacity automatically cannot satisfy the needs during disaster management.
Emergency triage is the concept of assisting people based on the urgency of their needs. Thus, the patients in the most dangerous health situations are to be assisted first and the non-urgent ones last. This is especially important during disasters when there are multiple individuals seeking help while some need quick responses. The scale that is often used is the Canadian Emergency Department Triage and Acuity scale consisting of five levels (Bullard et al., 2017). Based on the level (the first one being the most acute and the fifth the less urgent), the healthcare providers have to assess the situation and provide services to those who are lower on the scale. This can create a safer environment with fewer risks for those who need urgent medical health. Moreover, using such guidelines minimizes the possibility of uncertainty and confusion occurring in the medical setting. Emergency triage is mostly used in emergency departments, but in the case of disaster management, it is certain that such techniques help provide services to numerous patients more effectively.
Preparing for Triage Situations
Preparing the staff for triage situations is essential due to the critical importance of the issue. Disasters and emergencies have to be addressed quickly and effectively, which is why education, training, policy implementation, and practice can be included prior to the real triage experience. Staff members have to receive the proper information in terms of how to respond under such circumstances. Moreover, practicing is just as crucial because it can become a risk mitigator in case staff members can act quickly and not put patients in danger during real disaster management. The organization or facility has to have a specific set of rules which every healthcare provider has to be aware of and ready to execute. Such guidelines may refer to the urgency of attending to different patients, assessing the condition of individuals, and other key factors. Last but not least, exercising through practice may improve the time frame between admission and risk assessment. An example would be asking healthcare providers to identify the level of urgency by providing some symptoms and giving a short time span for the response.
Disaster management is a critical objective within every organization, agency, and medical facility that aims to increase safety and reduce risks. Disasters and emergency situations rely on quick yet efficient decisions. However, this does not mean that certain planning measures and guidelines should not be implemented. Hospitals have to cooperate with different agencies, address disasters based on the life cycle stages, implement incident command center concepts, assess capacities on multiple levels, and include emergency triage guidelines to confront the challenge with the most proficient tools. Thus, the hospital will have a greater capacity for patients who will receive help, a more organized approach to the problem, a trained team, and a well-structured system addressing urgent cases before moving on to the non-urgent ones. All these steps are important in creating a disaster management system that is able to reduce the possible harm of an incident and have the most benefits based on the circumstances.
Bullard, M. J. et al. (2017) ‘Revisions to the Canadian Emergency Department triage and Acuity Scale (ctas) guidelines 2016’, CJEM, 19(S2). Web.
HHS office of the assistant secretary for preparedness and response (2021) Public Health Emergency. Web.
Mission, role and pledge (2019) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web.