By: Karen Garrison

In 2017, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) established wide-ranging emergency preparedness requirements for 17 distinct healthcare providers including hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home health providers, PACE Programs, Federally Qualified Health Centers and more. These robust program requirements allow all providers to prepare for potential natural, physical or biological disasters and complete emergency preparedness exercises together, use the same nomenclature and emergency management best practices that FEMA and State officials use.

“The Preparedness Cycle” is an important organizational tool that is comprised of five phases of: mitigation, preparedness, prevention, response, and recovery. These phases describe a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising and evaluating emergency preparedness activities and allows organizations to increase their overall capacity and resiliency to experience and recover from any type of disaster. The Preparedness Cycle allows organizations to create organization wide strategies to plan for disasters well ahead, so that they are prepared for any type of disaster, manmade or otherwise. Not all disasters can be prevented but through proactive planning efforts, the Preparedness Cycle can be an effective mechanism to plan and mitigate the risk of life and loss during a disaster.

The Preparedness Cycle elements include:

1. Mitigation activities allow organizations to reduce loss of life and physical assets such as buildings and supplies that will lessen the overall effect of disaster on an organizations and community as a whole.

2. Prevention focuses on creating concrete plans, training and exercises well ahead of a disaster to prepare your organization. Emergency planning activities will allow organizations to reduce loss of life and sustain environmental challenges by developing organizational specific plans, standardized planning tools and emergency management protocols.

3. Preparedness is a continuous cycle of activities such as emergency planning, staff training, exercising, assessment and remedial actions. Preparedness and readiness go hand in hand as organizations and communities prepare for disaster.

4. Response is the how organizations respond to whatever challenges disasters bring such as supply chain interruptions, changes in service delivery or day to day staffing. As organizations respond to disaster, they must use all their emergency preparedness tools such as emergency plans, policies and procedures and staff training to respond to any type of disaster.

5. Recovery focuses on restoring critical business functions to stabilize day to day services and increase capacity to continue to serve their community after a disaster. The recovery phase allows organizations to return normal service levels as soon as possible.

Other Emergency Preparedness Strategies Include:

  • Emergency Preparedness activities should be completed year round
  • Emergency Preparedness is a continuous cycle of process improvement
  • It is important to document gaps in your emergency preparedness capacity so improvements can be made to your systems
  • It’s important to “calendar” emergency preparedness activities so that are regularly scheduled throughout the year.
  • Emergency Preparedness activities drive the preparedness cycle

Source Material: Bexar County Emergency Management, San Antonio, Texas

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