The Joint Commission (TJC) advises healthcare organizations to take an "All Hazards" approach to emergency management. The approach calls for an organization to work toward hazard prevention while simultaneously preparing for the unexpected emergencies and unforeseen situations that inevitably occur. The All Hazards approach involves taking the actions necessary to prepare for, respond to, and recover from hazards of all types.
Healthcare organizations need to work toward ensuring their emergency plans are flexible enough to address both everyday disruptions and catastrophic incidents. While preparing for a natural disaster is practical, other types of situations can threaten operations and personnel. For example, consider threats that impact the internal systems of a hospital or those that originate from within the facility, such as a disgruntled staff member or family member. Each is important and requires some level of response.
A primary tool in the emergency manager’s toolbox is the Hazard Vulnerability Analysis (HVA). The HVA helps emergency management personnel evaluate a variety of potential hazards, identify the likelihood of each hazard occurring in their vicinity, and for any that could occur, determine its impact on the organization.
Conducting an HVA allows emergency managers to score results in order to focus their planning efforts on the hazards that are most likely to occur and, most importantly, on those that threaten lives and are most likely to disrupt their ability to provide services to patients.
Another component of an All Hazards approach is to create a plan and structure that is flexible enough to scale to any emergency as it occurs and evolves. A single hazard may evolve to include aspects of another hazard. For example, a utility failure may lead to the need for an evacuation.
The Joint Commission identifies seven characteristics of an All Hazards command structure, including:
- Flexible structure for response to a variety of emergencies
- Clear delineation of staff roles and responsibilities
- Predictable chain of command
- Accountability for staff involved
- Prioritized response checklists
- Use of common terminology to reduce miscommunication
- Ability to be integrated into a community-wide plan
An All Hazards structure provides a firm foundation for response, no matter what the incident might be.
Healthcare organizations are critical components of a community’s infrastructure. It is extremely important that proper planning occurs so this community resource is ready to respond and remains functional. An All-Hazards approach ensures the organization has an Emergency Operations Plan that is comprehensive and adaptable to any possible hazard.