We are all aware that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has created new requirements when it comes to emergency preparedness. Emergency preparedness is rising to the top of the charts. The focus is not just on hospitals, but also on our off-site clinics, outpatient physical therapy, transplant centers and even dialysis centers, to name a few. In fact, 17 provider types are affected by the new CMS Emergency Preparedness rule.

The final rule became effective Nov. 15. What does that mean to health care facility professionals? We now have another set of requirements for emergency preparedness known as the “E-Tags,” and documentation is a critical component to compliance. The standard even requires actual emergency preparedness drills to be conducted on an annual basis.

The CMS requirements are based on the hospital emergency preparedness condition of participation. The idea of the E-Tags is to ensure that health care adopts an all-hazards approach similar to The Joint Commission’s Emergency Management chapter. Following The Joint Commission guidelines will enable all providers to anticipate and plan for what may arise, as well as respond quickly to facility issues, and strengthen the facility professional’s role with outside partners in the event of a disaster or emergency.

An emergency operations plan is pertinent to an emergency preparedness program. It should include a risk assessment and utilize the all-hazards approach; policies and procedures that are up to date; a communication plan; and training and testing programs that are applicable to all staff.

This month, the ASHE task force focused on developing a tool to help professionals understand E-Tags. The crosswalk provides the E-Tag information along with the codes and standards applicable to the requirements and how to meet the requirements for each tag. This not only helps to prepare for emergencies, but also ensures a compliant and safe physical environment. The tool can be accessed at www.ashe.org/etags.