How ASCs can prepare for emergencies: 3 Q's with an expert

Coire Stiene, chief technician for healthcare real estate firm Flagship Healthcare Properties, shared tips for ASCs developing an emergency preparedness plan.

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity.

Question: How can ASCs build an emergency preparedness plan? What are the first steps?

Coire Stiene: The first step in emergency preparedness is to proactively have a plan in place for every potential emergency situation. The obvious information to know is the locations of all emergency exits and emergency rescue/safe areas along with evacuation plans. It is also important to know your emergency backup equipment and what items are associated with that equipment, such as lights, OR equipment, HVAC, etc. Additionally, educating building occupants on the locations of and clearly labeling fire alarm pull stations, fire extinguishers and silent alarm activation devices are key components of a successful emergency preparedness plan.

Q: What tips would you give to ASCs putting together an emergency preparedness plan?

CS: I can’t stress enough the importance of knowing the locations of emergency activation devices and having them labeled accordingly. Knowing floor plans and where people can be kept safe in the building as well as outside the building can save lives. Labeling floor plans with the locations of fire extinguishers, pull stations for fire alarm and where any other emergency devices may be located enables any building occupant to be helpful and responsive in an emergency situation.

From the time of installation, tenants and maintenance personnel should be trained not only on what an emergency device operates/activates, but also on how to operate it. Proactive training and clearly labeled signage is extremely helpful when dealing with stressful, often panic situations. Another valuable resource for determining how to best handle emergency situations for your building is contacting your local fire department or police department and having them come on-site. They can provide valuable information.

Q: Is there anything ASCs overlook when developing a plan?

CS: Always have a backup plan. Sometimes, even the most proactive emergency preparedness plan is not enough. Counting on everything going according to plan, especially in an emergency can be a costly oversight. In the event an initial operation sequence fails and does not work as intended, your team is capable of manually turning that equipment on to prevent emergency downtime and potentially life-threatening situations, but do they know how?

It is noteworthy to add: You cannot overprepare your team for an emergency situation. Whether conducting fire drills, testing staff on the locations of emergency devices, how to properly operate a fire extinguisher, or any other emergency response, the ability to recall and successfully provide patient protection in different emergency situations directly depends on your team’s ability to remain calm and act confidently when dealing with stressful scenarios.

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