Get your hospital back on its feet after a disaster
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July 1, 2010
Hospitals spend a lot of time identifying risks and preparing so they’re ready to respond when a disaster strikes. But one phase of emergency management you may overlook is recovery: how to get back in operation after a hurricane or flood assaults your facility.
Typically what happens during major disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina or the recent earthquake that devastated Haiti, is a period of intense response that follows when people rally to help.
“And then we tend to forget about it and assume life goes back to the way it was,” Joseph L. Cappiello, MA, BSN, chair of Cappiello & Associates in Elmhurst, IL, said during his presentation at the 4th annual Hospital Safety Center Symposium in Las Vegas May 6.
Often it takes a number of years to even get close to returning to normalcy, said Cappiello, former vice president for accreditation field operations at The Joint Commission (formerly JCAHO), who went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and later helped develop the accreditor’s EM standards.
He recalled the fate of the Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston that was hit by Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. The 850-bed, Level 1 trauma center had to evacuate its patients, and the damaged facility had to close for six or seven months. Furthermore, there can be a lasting emotional impact after the disaster.
“We think if we work very hard post-disaster that everything gets back to normal pretty quickly, but that’s not true,” Cappiello said.