The COVID-19 pandemic has proven the need to create pandemic disaster-preparedness tools, checklists and other resources that focus on the long-term health of an organization. COVID-19 has infiltrated and challenged the health care system in ways that could have never been predicted. 

In terms of mortality rates, although the COVID-19 pandemic ranks lower than some of history’s worse pandemics it did expose that even in modern times being unprepared for such events can overtax the United States health care system and weaken its ability to care for families, neighbors and friends before herd immunity is reached. The three areas that were most negatively impacted in the health care setting were supply chain/logistics, staffing and capacity. 

Chapter 12 of the 2012 edition of NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code, deals exclusively with emergency preparedness. The framework consists of the following actions: assess, mitigate, prepare, respond and continuation of operations/recovery. 

The first step is to define members of the emergency management committee, which should include members of medical and senior leadership. Once the committee has been identified and roles are assigned and accepted, the committee should immediately begin work on developing the emergency operations plan, which is a living document that governs the actions of the health care organization during a critical incident that would overburden, overtax or negatively impact the normal operation of the system.

The hazard vulnerability analysis, which is defined and described in NFPA 99, section 12.5, provides general guidelines to define potential threats and risk that the individual hospital or health care network might encounter. This is critical and should consist of a consortium of the emergency management committee as well as members of the public safety, security and emergency response teams. 

There is currently no standardization of tools and documents, only recommendations and guidelines. However, as the health care field continues to process the data related to the pandemic, common trends in like communities will emerge. Though there will never be a one-size-fits-all tool that will apply to every community for every scenario, there are enough common elements to develop a foundational tool set that will apply to most health care settings.

American Society for Health Care Engineering members can get started by using the “ASHE Resources” link above to download a helpful tool.