While chemical or biological incidents might not be among the top three hazards identified by hospitals in their emergency preparedness plans, environmental services professionals should be aware of the special preparation needed to contain chemical or biological emergencies.

“In any event, the environmental services department is part of the facility emergency response team to identify current inventory and location of personal protective equipment (PPE) — as well as decontamination supplies and tools — and coordinate the purchase of additional items needed,” says Greg May, CHESP, system director of environmental services and linen service at Swedish Medical Centers in Seattle.

While serving as environmental services director at her previous facility, Lisa Ford, BS, CHESP, district manager for Sodexo, was an integral member of the hospital’s emergency preparedness planning committee. “The 100-page plan included detailed descriptions of each department’s scope of responsibility before, during and after an emergency,” she explains. “As director of environmental services, I was responsible for purchasing and maintaining the inventory of emergency supplies — everything from cots to respirators to traffic cones and a decontamination tent.”

“Hospitals are required to have local, immediate access to 48 to 72 hours of supplies and equipment to handle an emergency, which gives time for state and federal agency assistance to arrive,” explains May. “Most hospitals should have a cache of PPE and other supplies on-site for significant events and, at my hospital, my department has its own smaller cache that we can access for small events. We also have a supply of HEPA [high-efficiency particulate arresting] vacuums and filters for my staff that can be used in specific situations.”

Although it is critical to have supplies on hand, there are some items or some quantities that cannot be stored on-site. In these situations, be sure to have a memo of understanding with suppliers that will enable shipment of additional supplies in the event of a larger-than-expected patient exposure, suggests Ford. Agreements with other specialty vendors also may be necessary for items that only will be needed in specific events.

“For example, in my previous position, I had an agreement with a company to provide a refrigerated trailer for use as a morgue if needed,” Ford says. “Other suppliers agreed to deliver specific [numbers of] items such as masks and gowns, if needed. Remember, too, that some supplies, such as hand sanitizers, have expiration dates so they can’t be purchased and stored indefinitely. Be sure suppliers are available to deliver them.”

Sheryl S. Jackson is an Atlanta-based freelance writer who covers management, leadership and business trends for the health care, construction, supply chain and facilities management industries.


Practice guidance available

Practice Guidance for Healthcare Environmental Cleaning, second edition, helps to define and advance the professionals responsible for care of the health care environment to ensure high-quality outcomes and healthy communities.

This manual provides evidence-based research, guidance and recommended practices that should be considered for inclusion in health care environmental services departments. Because each facility has its own needs, this resource has been designed to enhance an existing program.

Click here for more information.

Certified Healthcare Environmental Services Technician Certificate

This certification focuses on critical areas of competency for front-line technicians, including infection prevention, quality of care, patient outcomes and experience.

Click here for more information.

Environmental Sustainability Certificate Program

AHE has launched a certification to acknowledge the environmental and ecological sustainability efforts of environmental services departments.

Click here for more information.