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Do The Disaster Math

Do the Disaster Math

What is the probability your facility will have a disaster? Depending on your region, certain disasters are probably very common, and your facility plans for them every year. However, recent events have made it painfully clear that only planning for common disasters is not enough. It is imperative for your facility to consider all possibilities of incidences, including those with a low probability.

Who would have thought these uncommon events would have happened?

  • Water and electric outage in Texas – February 2021
  • Earthquake on Oklahoma/Nebraska border – February 2021
  • Earthquake in South Carolina – December 2020
  • Derecho in Iowa – August 2020
  • Hurricanes – 30 named storms in 2020 going all the way to “Iota.”
  • Worldwide pandemic – March 2020 through today
  • Tornados – 43 tornadoes were documented in Los Angeles County from 1950-2012

Disasters of all kinds in all 50 states actually increased over the past six years:

Disasters Declared in U.S.

Information on specific states and disasters can be found by searching the FEMA website.

According to psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, individuals have difficulty envisioning small probabilities. Whenever an event is unlikely, they tend to treat it as if it will not happen. The decision to engage in advanced planning requires thinking not just about the cost of a solution at that time.  Additionally, how much time and money will be saved in the long term by avoiding costly problems when they do occur?

As health care professionals, it is important to do the math when it comes to low probabilities. How does one convince decision-makers that spending money to prepare for X scenario or Y disaster is worth the investment? A gut reaction is not a solution to properly plan for disasters. Instead, calculate the return on investment (ROI) of actions taken now, the probability of bad outcomes, and the increased expense if action is not taken before the disaster occurs.

Evaluation + preparation = emergency planning solution

The “All-Hazards Approach” includes considering and planning for any of these possible scenarios:

  • Emerging infectious disease
  • Loss of normal water supply
  • Economic disruption
  • Armed individuals
  • Missing resident
  • Severe weather
  • Loss of power
  • Bomb threats
  • Fire or smoke
  • Bioterrorism
  • Loss of heat
  • Earthquake
  • Civil unrest
  • Pandemic
  • Gas leak

However, when considering hazard vulnerability, it is important to look at internal and external factors. Having plans and procedures for each hazard is imperative to the successful maintenance of operations. If 20% of planning prepares for 80% of possible emergencies, what happens when the other 20% occurs? You must think outside the 80/20 rule, because it is important to maintain patient health and safety 100% of the time.  The 80/20 Rule is why an “All-Hazards Approach” is not enough. 

In the healthcare environment, planning should address more than just common emergencies or large-scale disasters. Common emergencies, even those with a low probability, can have a high impact on patient health and safety. They can also present unique challenges with unrecognized interdependencies.

Examples of disasters that are low-frequency, but can have a very high impact on patient care that may fall outside the perimeters of the “All-Hazards Approach” include:

Internal Disasters

  • What happens when there is an elevator bank outage? How do you get food and supplies to the kitchen and patients?
  • What happens when the water system/plumbing is disrupted? How will water rapidly be deployed for food preparation, hand hygiene, and drinking. Do not forget about critical operations such as dialysis and equipment sanitation.

External Disasters

Have you considered these questions when thinking about a natural disaster, civil unrest, terrorism, or pandemic?

  • Is this part of your emergency plan?
  • What is the weak link in the supply chain?
  • What are the trends being watched by local emergency management organizations outside the facility?

Both internal and external disasters, as well as those with high and low probability, can be devastating and life threatening. It is vital to have a ready supply of emergency food and water on hand. Don’t let your disaster plan be your next disaster!

Contact Meals for All TODAY to learn more about shelf stable food and water options that save time, lives and money while providing regulatory compliance and peace of mind.

916-832-MEAL (6325)

By Linda Eck-Mills, MBA, RDN, LDN, FADA, and Renee Kowal, RDN, Regional Executives at Meals for All, Inc.

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