The Emergency Operations Plan should address 7 key areas of how you will prepare for, respond and handle an emergency.

For healthcare organizations, emergency preparedness serves as a crucial component of its facility management plan. Having a hospital emergency operations plan helps you stay compliant with the Joint Commission and is part of the annual review process.

The key areas are:

1. Communication.

The Emergency Operations Plan should outline key details for internal and external communication as part of EM.02.02.01. Internally, who will be involved in the communication command center and be responsible for developing and sharing messages with appropriate parties? The plan should also outline how you will communicate with external agencies, from emergency response to your vendors that provide essential supplies, like medical gas and fuel for your generators.

2. Resources and assets.

Understanding the resources and assets that you will have available to you and your team during an emergency serves as an important component of your plan. The Joint Commission requires this as part of EM.02.02.03. Assets, such as emergency generators, and resources, such as supplies like hazmat suits, should be identified and counted within the plan

3. Safety and security.

The plan should acknowledge safety and security procedures in the event of an emergency for both patients and safety. The Joint Commission specifically addresses this in EM.02.02.05. Within your Emergency Operations Plan, you should outline how the hospital will coordinate with security agencies like the police department or National Guard, as well as how it will manage hazardous materials and waste.

4. Staff responsibilities.

Clear details of responsibilities during an emergency situation will ensure that you are ready to respond the instant something occurs. Knowing who will be in charge of informing your vendors, as well as who will take charge of setting up a command center, for instance, can ensure that you are able to act quickly.

5. Utilities management.

In the case of an emergency, the plan must identify how the hospital will continue to provide utilities, such as electricity and water. As water is used in several different ways within a healthcare organization, water sources for consumption and essential care activities, as well as equipment and sanitary purposes, need to be identified. Other key utilities include medical gas and fuel. A key component of utilities management for emergency planning includes the labeling of the systems and valves.

6. Patient and clinical support activities.

Emergency planning serves as such an important component for hospitals because it ensures continual care for patients, no matter the conditions, and protects life. According to EM.02.02.11, the Emergency Operations Plan should plan for how clinical services will react to emergencies and, in turn, how that will impact the facilities to continue care, treatment and services.

7. Regular Testing and Evaluation

As part of your Emergency Operations Plan, build in time to test and evaluate the equipment that you will need in the event of an emergency. The Joint Commission requires regular maintenance of these assets, which can be tracked and managed in a healthcare technology management (HTM) platform designed for hospitals. In addition, evaluating your plan after an emergency can help you identify key gaps and areas where you can improve in the future.