One of the first articles I helped to produce as editor of Health Facilities Management was a feature on terrorism preparedness, published in early 2000 to help the industry get its arms around a threat that still seemed somewhat vague and distant.
The attacks of 9/11, of course, made the terrorism threat all too real. But, as other natural and manmade events have demonstrated, the only realistic way for hospitals to prepare for every possible scenario is through a rigorous and comprehensive all-hazards approach.
It's a duty hospitals take seriously, according to a first-of-its-kind report released last month by the Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response called "From Hospitals to Healthcare Coalitions: Transforming Health Preparedness and Response in Our Communities."
More than three-fourths of the hospitals participating in the national Hospital Preparedness Program met 90 percent or more of the measures for all-hazards preparedness in 2009. Overall, more than 85 percent of U.S. hospitals took advantage of the program.
Hospitals meeting performance measures have plans to handle a surge in demand for services during a disaster, as well as plans for hospital evacuation, sheltering patients and staff in place, and responding to mass fatalities, HHS officials say. These hospitals also have dedicated redundant, interoperable systems to communicate among hospitals, public health agencies and emergency managers. In fact, the hospitals can report the number of available beds to a state, territory or city emergency operations center within 60 minutes of a request.
To find out how your facility stacks up against those of your peers, access the report at www.phe.gov/preparedness/planning/hpp/pages/default.aspx.