Business of Medicine
Hurricane Preparedness, Response and Recovery for Healthcare Practices
Healthcare organizations must prepare for all-hazard emergencies. The concept of emergency preparedness includes planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising and evaluating to ensure effective coordination during an incident response. Healthcare organizations need to understand what is expected of them during times of emergency to limit any potential risks.
- Always adhere to safety guidance when preparing for a natural disaster such as a hurricane. This means promptly following instructions, including evacuation orders from the local and state authorities.
- When a hurricane warning is issued, immediately start monitoring state and local news alerts and guidance.
- Ensure that your healthcare organization can receive alerts from multiple news sources during an emergency when power or internet sources are down.
- Be aware of the symptoms related to carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be tricky to diagnose and typically rises due to generator use after a storm that causes power outages.
It’s never too early to prepare for a hurricane or other natural disaster. While you can’t anticipate every emergency, you can take steps that will help your practice return to normal operations as quickly and completely as possible after a natural disaster.
Characteristics of a Hurricane
The hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, though it’s not atypical for a hurricane to occur outside that timeframe. When a tropical cyclone’s surface wind speed exceeds 74 mph, it is classified as a hurricane. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale estimates potential property damage based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed. It uses a 1 to 5 rating scale; a Category 1 storm produces very dangerous winds and some damage, while a Category 5 storm generates winds at or above 157 mph and causes catastrophic damage.
Areas in the path of a hurricane can expect storm surges, heavy rainfall, flooding and high winds. A storm surge is an above-normal rise in sea level and can be the deadliest aspect of a hurricane. Surges can reach heights 20 feet or more above normal and spread several miles inland. Most buildings and roads in the path of a significant storm surge will be destroyed. Heavy rainfall and flooding are the most significant threat for inland and urban areas. Intense periods of rain can cause flash flooding, making roads impassable and forcing water into local buildings. High winds can uproot trees and send debris flying into the air, creating dangerous conditions for anyone not safely sheltered.
Stay Updated and Informed
When you become aware of an approaching hurricane, it is important to continually check local and state weather announcements. This type of natural disaster usually allows ample time to prepare and evacuate when necessary. Be prepared to receive information via multiple sources, such as TV, radio, internet, validated social media sources, phone apps, etc. Multiple sources can help you continue to receive important information in case of power loss or other service outage.
Always follow instructions from local and state authorities. If you are directed to evacuate, do so promptly for your safety and the safety of others.
In addition to local and state weather channels/announcements, information about upcoming storms can be obtained through the National Hurricane Center. For state-specific logistical information such as evacuations, shelters, closings, lane reversals, etc., visit the Emergency Management Division website for your state. A list of all states and their websites can be found at Emergency Management Agency.
Be Aware of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Due to Generator Use
Generators can be lifesaving after a storm, but they also come with the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from toxic engine exhaust, electric shock or electrocution, and fire. Patients with CO poisoning can present with non-specific symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, vomiting and headache, and the diagnosis may get missed. After a hurricane, physicians in areas with power outages should be on the alert to the possibility of poisoning when seeing patients.
The Red Cross offers guidelines for proper generator selection and use you might want to review and provide to patients.
Are You Hurricane Ready?
Planning ahead is critical when it comes to protecting your business during a disaster or other emergency situation. A well-devised response plan also will minimize the impact of disasters on your business and help you recover more quickly.
MagMutual created a Disaster Recovery Toolkit to help PolicyOwners prepare for, respond to and recover from a disaster. The toolkit provides information on establishing and activating a hurricane disaster plan and other emergency action plans, ensuring appropriate insurance coverage, defining emergency response roles, maintaining critical contact lists, standardizing communication methods, and itemizing and safeguarding key elements for continuity of operations.
During a response phase, the toolkit focuses on establishing priorities, maintaining communications and determining clinical operational status based on damage and potential hazards. For recovery from a disaster, the toolkit provides guidance on documenting damages and losses, taking steps to restore services, performing after-action debriefings, and providing support to those affected by the disaster.
If you have a claim during or from what you believe to be the result of a hurricane, MagMutual will be available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To report a potential claim or resolve any claims questions, please email [email protected] with all available information and/or call 1-800-586-6891.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) - Hurricane Resources
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Hurricane Resources
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Vaccine Storage and Handling Toolkit
- National Weather Service - Flood Safety Tips and Resources
- Ensure that your healthcare organization has an up-to-date hurricane disaster plan in its emergency response policy.
- Ensure that all employees understand this policy as well as any obligations they may have during an emergency.
- Consider conducting annual emergency response training with your employees to simulate and prepare for different emergency situations.
Healthcare organizations that fail to adequately prepare or respond to emergencies could face lawsuits for negligence, especially if a patient or employee is harmed by the organization’s actions. These claims are infrequent; however, their costs can quickly add up, especially if someone was injured.
Want to learn more?
Interested in how MagMutual can help?View our products
The information provided in this resource does not constitute legal, medical or any other professional advice, nor does it establish a standard of care. This resource has been created as an aid to you in your practice. The ultimate decision on how to use the information provided rests solely with you, the PolicyOwner.