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Emergency Evacuation…Are you Prepared?

The safety and well-being of your patients, staff and community can be critical to survival

You never know where you’ll be when a disaster may strike. Recent flooding events in Northern California have shined a light on emergency evacuations. Many disasters allow no time for people to gather even the most basic necessities, which is why planning ahead is so essential. Disasters come in all sizes and shapes including fire or smoke, severe weather, loss of power, earthquake, explosion, bomb threats, armed individuals, gas leak, loss of heat, and loss of normal water supply. In crisis situations, we are all dependent on each other.

The recent Oroville Dam structural collapse created a hazardous situation for the downstream communities and the town of Oroville. Emergency evacuation was required, and it involved the immediate movement of 200,000 people. Forced evacuations put the spotlight on healthcare systems and the need to protect the elderly and vulnerable members of a community. Emergency management encompasses all disciplines in healthcare communities.

The hospital plays a crucial role in emergency preparedness in communities. It is the epicenter of medical care delivered to those who are injured or in danger. Think about how many others might show up from your community as well. Truly, healthcare facilities are a beacon of safety during a disaster and your community will be expecting you to be prepared. Nothing is more important to emergency planning and response than the need for food, safe water, and management. People in food service are in a pivotal position to make a special contribution to the welfare of great numbers of people who find themselves in need during a disaster like the one created by the Oroville Dam.

Facilities need an Emergency Preparedness Plan for before, during and after a disaster, including a plan for both evacuations and sheltering-in-place. Running a hospital or care facility is an enormously complex task under the best of circumstances; preparing a hospital for a disaster is infinitely more complicated. It is important to prepare and calculate your emergency food needs in advance, but you need to be asking the right questions for the safety and welfare of your patients, staff and surge. Look at how many patients, staff, surge, and volunteers will be at or coming to your facility during a disaster.

Ask these questions FIRST: How many people does your Emergency Preparedness Plan cover? Who will your facility be feeding? Does your plan include a menu that serves all therapeutic diets? Is your plan nutritionally and calorically in balance? Is there a pediatric plan? A vegetarian plan? Does your plan need gas and/or electricity to prepare and serve? Is your plan easy to prepare? Can volunteers prepare your plan? Is it easy to serve under disaster circumstances? Can you easily transport it in case of evacuation? What is the shelf life of the food? Do you need special tools? Do you have RDN phone support if you need it? Is it regulatory compliant? It is important to ask these questions BEFORE you put your plan in place.  

The Meals for All emergency preparedness solution offers a complete, RDN created and approved emergency meal plan, emergency and disaster policies and procedures, and nutritious, delicious Meals for All. This flexible plan uses the same food for both an evacuation and a shelter-in-place plan. Planned to meet all your emergency preparedness and nutritional requirements and save money by avoiding costly survey deficiencies.  Meals for All costs 90% less than traditional emergency meal preparedness as the ten-year shelf life drastically reduces inventory turnover when stored in a cool, dry location. You also spend less time managing emergency food inventory. This plan can be used with no utilities…which can be critical to keeping folks fed.

In the communities surrounding Oroville, utilities – electricity, water, and phone service – were damaged and unavailable for extended periods of time, plus high winds and water isolated some residents for long periods of time. When floods hit New York, Long Island was without power for 11 days. During Hurricane Rita, there was so much surge from Hurricane Katrina two weeks before that the hospital ran out of food in 30 hours (despite a 7-day plan in place). The Joint Commission currently suggests a minimum of a 96-hour sustainability plan for emergency meals & water. Be current on the requirements for your: City, County, and State. You must meet regulatory requirements. The best way to keep up on current regulatory compliance is to check city, county, and state resources often; or join a healthcare coalition.

Meals for All is committed to helping healthcare communities ensure institutional emergency preparedness for uninterrupted nutrition care that saves lives and money. There are all types of disasters and crises. It is important to have a plan to address your individual facilities emergency preparedness needs. Emergency evacuation plans are developed to ensure the safest and most efficient evacuation time of all expected patients/residents of a structure, city, or region. Regional situations may affect a facilities ability to evacuate, which leads to shelter-in-place situations. You need to have a plan for that as well. Meals for All is here to help, we specialize in Emergency preparedness planning. Call us at 916-832-6325 or email

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