7 Areas to Improve Your Disaster Preparedness Checklist

By Peter Saviola | October 2, 2018

After the 2017 hurricane season, I saw disaster preparedness plans pushed to the limits. In Houston our reps, our drivers and our customer service teams had to go beyond the call of duty to make sure hospitals and nursing homes, essentially all areas of healthcare, receive the supplies to continue caring for patients.

During this year’s Hurricane Communication Webinar, Bill Rich, the emergency management specialist for the CDC, made one comment that stood out and I think we all need to consider: “Plan A is the one that never really works. Make sure Plans B and C really work.” I’ve seen the need for several backup plans with 20 years working with customers on their supply chain and cost management needs.

By now, you have a disaster preparedness plan, but I’ve found when I run through our own checklist with healthcare systems they quickly realize they can improve their plans. So let’s talk about ways to ensure your supply levels meet clinical needs regardless of the weather or emergency event.

1. Special Needs

Health systems fully understand the special needs of their patient population, but are you addressing inventory management specifically as part of your emergency action plan?

Consider what could happen to your patients should there be a hurricane that causes significant flooding and takes out the power and the air conditioning. Disasters could lead to your patients developing new health complications or exacerbating existing complications, which is especially worrisome if you serve many high-acuity patients.  For each major disaster type relevant to your region (hurricane, blizzard, flood, twister, etc.), consider the most common ailments and adjust your emergency supplies accordingly.

What if your traditional population changes in the event of a disaster? For example, what happens if the nursing home around the corner has to shut down? Anticipate what emergency supplies to have on-hand based not only on your current population but also on the specific population within your community.

2. Substitutions

Last year we saw the impact Hurricane Maria had on supplies. There was a critical shortage of IV bags due to the massive storm damaging several Puerto Rico factories. Prepare a pre-approved substitution list for surgical kits and other items your clinical staff deems “most critical.” A supplier should be able to load this into their system in advance.

3. Placing Orders

Monitoring the next big weather event isn’t enough. As soon as you hear a disaster is imminent, place orders with your suppliers immediately. What you’ll find is we can partner to help you with preparation during that time too.

4. Receiving Supplies

When we work with hospitals on disaster plans, we find its common to overlook supply delivery and emergency supply storage.  What happens if the dock is flooded or is blocked by large pieces of debris?  Identify a back-up receiving area and be prepared to identify an alternate delivery route because it won’t be business as usual in a disaster.

5. Various Shifts

I’ve worked with customers during emergency drills, but almost always during the day shift. Consider the off and overnight shifts. What if an emergency happened in the middle of the night?

6. Communication

You may have a lead for all emergency plans and communications, but do you have a chief identified for all shifts? While most of your staff tends to go into overdrive, working longer, unexpected hours in an emergency at some point they do step away. They need a break. Have a point person for each shift and make sure they’re communicating with each other on drills, ahead of an actual event.

7. Employees at Home

Last year, Hurricane Harvey impacted our employees in Houston. Their homes were flooded and destroyed. We had hotel rooms reserved in case they needed shelter for themselves or their families. Think of where your employees could find shelter if they can’t return home.

You can ensure you have a more efficient flow of supplies and resources system-wide with customized disaster preparedness planning.

Categories: Expert Views, Supply Chain

Peter Saviola

Vice President of Sales Operations

Peter Saviola serves as the Vice President of Sales Operations for acute care sales at Medline, where he heads up the customer logistics team, providing consultative and logistical support to prime vendor distribution customers. Saviola holds a BS in Finance from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a Master’s from Darden School of Management.

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