Safety

Weekly tip: Past disasters give clues into the recovery process

Hospital Safety Insider, May 31, 2012

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Managing a large-scale disaster can be difficult enough, but without long-term recovery plans, your hospital is doomed from the start.

When you look back at the major disasters of the last decade, a few come to mind right away. The 10-year anniversary of 9/11 was last September; Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005; and most recently Joplin, Mo., was destroyed by a category EF5 tornado that virtually wiped out the local hospital. Overseas, Japan is still feeling the impact of a deadly tsunami that struck early in 2011.

Major disasters like these can ravage a community for months or even years, but once healthcare facilities have returned to normal operations, their experience provides a learning opportunity for other hospitals, particularly when it comes to disaster recovery.

Hospitals need to strike a balance between mitigating the immediate effects of a disaster in order to treat the surge of patients and moving forward to return to normal operations. These are decisions that are typically made by facility managers along with hospital leadership, says Mary Comerio, a professor of architecture at UC Berkley College of Environmental Design and an internationally recognized expert on disaster recovery.

"You are coping and you have a plan on how you're going to get back into operation," she says. "It's a two-pronged approach. If you just cope with the emergency and you're not dealing with the long term, you're shooting yourself in the foot."

This tip was excerpted from the June issue of Briefings on Hospital Safety.

 



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