Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
The time allowed to prepare for an emergency or disaster— whether natural or manmade— is unpredictable, and in many cases, not enough. Even in the best of circumstances, it is difficult to feel prepared to address the uncertainty of an emergency. To proactively address a lack of preparedness, the
CMS Emergency Preparedness Rule aimed to equip health care organizations with an awareness and understanding of disaster policies and procedures, as well as their role within the broader emergency response. The CMS Emergency Preparedness Rule provided an opportunity for health care coalitions (HCC) to engage with partners who were not previously involved in response efforts, including ambulatory surgical centers, hospice organizations, and rural health clinics.
The Rockin’ Roundup was an overwhelming success in demonstrating to participants the function of an HCC and the value of building relationships with its members. It allowed partners to network and become familiar with one another, supporting future collaboration and a community-based approach toward emergency response. By becoming involved in the HCC (e.g., attending HCC meetings), coalition members built a sense of community and trust with one another, incentivizing them to take ownership over their role in emergency response.
The coalition had several takeaways from this exercise. First, the Utah/ Wasatch HCC learned that what seems second nature to one facility may be a foreign concept to another. The CMS guidelines have helped bridge this gap and allow all coalition facilities to be on the same page.
To help facilities comply with new CMS Emergency Preparedness Rule requirements, the Rockin’ Roundup provided coalition and their members with firsthand experience on execution of an exercise. For those members that had been doing training and exercise for years, it provided them an opportunity to refine their procedure and became mentors to those who were new to the training and to the exercise. From this exercise, the participants were able to learn the planning process for an exercise, so that they could hold one on their own with their individual facilities on a smaller scale.
Next, the coalition learned that they could
work together to share resources across facilities to fill gaps during an emergency. For example, representatives from long-term health care facilities were able to meet other representatives from other long-term health care facilities, which facilitated enhanced collaboration within their organization. The coalition was surprised to learn of the number of home health clinical staff in the community and of the variety of resources that can be tapped into during a mass casualty situation.
Another valuable lesson learned was that
a call center almost always needs more people than you think. The number of calls, emails, and texts that came in from the exercise left the call center understaffed in a matter of minutes. They quickly learned that they needed additional assistance to better support the coalition with its communication efforts.
The Roundup was also a valuable learning experience for coalition leadership and members.
The coalition learned the importance of pacing out the exercise, given participants’ varied levels of experience in emergency preparedness and response and understanding that not all partners can be involved in each training activity. In addition, while this one-day event was a success, it also reinforced the need for sustained engagement among coalition members throughout the year.
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