The Hospital & Health Care sector, by the very nature of its business operation, is particularly susceptible to risk from internal and external factors. Therefore, it has long recognized the need for effective and robust emergency management planning. Emphasizing the resiliency of Hospital & Health Care facility operations Emergency Management plans also support ongoing health & safety initiatives, and provide for a rturn on investment in the reduction of operational down time.

Embracing the application of internationally accepted Emergency Management principles the program objectives are aimed at ensuring the safety of employees and guests; mitigating or eliminating their exposure to risk; and providing employees with the tools to be able to effectively respond to and provide support to patients, staff, visitors and tenants, and arriving emergency services; and to timely and effectively recover from emergencies.

Let’s use the language of the C Suite !  Operational disruptions that impact public safety and/or prevent a Hospital & Health Care centre from serving their customers are costly to the business and its reputation – seriously impacting the bottom line.

Comprehensive Emergency Management plans are a proven and well recognized method to provide a standardized approach to emergency response, mitigation, and operational recovery. Hospital & Health Care  Emergency Management programs provide support not only to facility first responders and arriving emergency services; they also provide strategic guidance for senior executives in how to approach crisis management, business continuity, and reputational risk management.

A successful Emergency Management program in a Hospital & Health Care  environment demands foresight and imagination from all levels of the organization, facility operations, starting at the front line all the way up to senior management, and include front line, support and at times, contractors.

In addition, consultation with industry experts in preparation of Emergency Management plans adds invaluable insight into current industry best practices and enhances the overall risk/harm reduction effort, which should be the main focus of the plan. Consultants have a unique opportunity to learn from challenges and experiences, often garnered from around the world.  That experience is powerful and should be used on an ongoing basis.

The implementation of an Emergency Management plan is equally important and requires buy-in from all levels of facility operations, and a strong commitment from senior management in order to be effective. An effective Emergency Management plan empowers front line staff and managers with the tools and the confidence to effectively mitigate, and often eliminate minor crises before they grow into larger ones, and to prevent significant crises situations from completely crippling the continuity of business operations.

Tactical Fire Safety Plans: Innovative Best Practice

Fire Safety Plans are one of the most basic tools within a robust Emergency Management plan.  They are also a legislated requirement under National and Provincial Fire Codes.  Well written plans provide a framework for occupant safety and contain detailed instructions to building occupants in the event of a fire, including evacuation procedures & shelter in place; and they spell out supervisory staff responsibilities, including procedures for custodial staff and trades. However, Fire Safety Plans are only as effective as the information they contain. Unfortunately, many Hospital & Health Care facility Fire Safety Plans are found to be out of date and lacking vital information about the facility’s critical infrastructure and resources. Fire Codes require updates and reviews of Fire Safety Plans to be conducted at minimum annually, and to be approved by local fire services. Non-compliance may expose Health Care facilities to unwanted legal action for regulatory infractions, and civil liabilities risk in the event of fire emergencies or other unmitigated disasters resulting in property damage, loss of life or serious injury.

Detailed and current information contained within a Fire Safety Plan will assist responding fire services in formulating a response that may save lives and property. Additionally, in cases of major incidents apart from fire emergencies, these plans may provide invaluable assistance to responding police services requiring technical information in support of an effective tactical response.

An implementation of a “best practice” in a Health Care Facility Emergency Management program is the inclusion of tactical information into the Fire Safety Plan for use by arriving police services.

For example, a police service Incident Commander may utilize technical drawings found within a Fire Safety Plan to assist in the formulation of a tactical response during an incident involving the investigation of a bomb threat, suspicious package, an improvised explosive device, an armed and barricaded person, and in the most extreme cases an active shooter. In addition, fire alarm, sprinkler system isolation, electrical and HVAC system isolation procedures are available to incident commanders through the Fire Safety Plan. This information may be of critical importance during emergencies, as has been documented during actual post incident reviews in the recent past. An inventory of these infrastructure systems should be documented in detail and made available for use by arriving emergency services.

An important lesson learned in a post-incident review of an active shooter incident from a not too distant past revealed that it may be vitally important for responding police services to have readily available instructions on the operation of the fire alarm. An activated fire alarm continued to signal throughout a police response to an active shooter incident making effective tactical communications difficult. Effective communication during the deployment of police resources in a rapidly changing emergency situation where a timely response is of critical importance in the preservation of life cannot be overstated. With these instructions now available within the fire plan, we have provided additional tactical tools for the arriving emergency services.    A lesson learned has been shared, and is now a best practice for Health Care facilities.

Jason Reid, National Life Safety Group

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