Preparedness – just what is it exactly?
Preparedness is an organization’s capacity to adapt its intellectual and physical resources to manage a novel event, such as a disaster. How well your organization responds to novelty is based on your preparedness. So let’s dive into it and try to understand it fully.
There are 5 things that contribute to preparedness. Time, Money, Leaders, People, and Equipment all interact with each other to sum up your organization’s ability to act. The diagram shows far more than 5 things interacting because other factors, such as turnover and organization, do add and take away from these five factors that influence preparedness, but are secondary in contribution.
Leaders set the tone for your preparedness efforts. Since they control the priorities of the organization, they can help connect with others in the organization who have a stake in preparedness. Leaders can demand accountability from department heads to support your emergency preparedness program. Leaders make space and time in schedules to conduct important preparedness training. YOU MUST GET YOUR LEADER ON BOARD!
Time is a double edged sword. If you go too long without reinforcing skills, they deteriorate and start to become weaker. Allowing time to develop and maintain preparedness is important.
Money can contribute positively, because it expands our capacity to solve problems. The trouble is that there is never enough of it to spend on preparedness! As a result, emergency coordinators have to “bootstrap” programs by enlisting internal “volunteers” who act as evaluators or role-players. This may save the organization cash, but is still a drain on the organization in terms of the time and effort a volunteer spends away from their regular job. Volunteers also need to be prepared, which can take a long time since they are not professional trainers. A wiser use of money may be hiring a consultant with the needed expertise to enhance your readiness – its money better spent in the long run.
People are our most valuable resources. They are the ones that get things done. In an emergency, whether prepped or not, they will be the ones responding. People normally rise to the occasion, but they will perform better if they have a good idea of where to start, have some experience and know what to expect. This is why your planning efforts and training are key enablers to building your team’s confidence and capabilities.
Finally, we have equipment, the tools that we use in an emergency. Radios, Med Sleds, first-aid kits, portable monitoring equipment and evacuation wheel chairs are all examples of important tools used to coordinate and act in an emergency. Equipment cannot operate itself – people must be trained how to use it and have confidence to use it. Just because someone has been told how to use an evacuation chair, doesn’t mean they are very confident moving a 200-pound person down a stairwell with one. Equipment must be checked regularly and maintained. There is nothing worse than picking up a two-way radio and realizing it doesn’t work because no one checked the batteries!
Preparedness is very difficult to develop and maintain without a habit of continual reinforcement.
Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing some strategies to help you stay prepared for that eventual emergency. I will also be discussing Business Continuity and the new Medicare Rules governing emergency preparedness in medical facilities in several upcoming events.
Partners in Emergency Preparedness Conference,
April 18-21st, Tacoma Convention Center, Tacoma, WA www.PIEPC.org
Washington State Health Care Association Annual Convention and Expo,
May 16-19, The Davenport Hotel and Spokane Center, Spokane, WA http://www.whca.org/
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