Help for Hospitals Handling Patient Surges

On the Safe Side Toolkit is a free hospital security planning resource designed to help healthcare organizations manage security and public health emergencies.

Help for Hospitals Handling Patient Surges

In light of the Las Vegas mass shooting, Campus Safety decided to rerun this timely article on handling patient surges.

Hospitals hold a unique place in the planning for public health emergencies. Not only do they have to continue to function during such critical situations, but patient surges (in which a large number of patients arrive at a facility in a relatively short period of time) could occur. If proper planning and consideration are not given to security and traffic control issues, such events can drastically impact a healthcare facility, creating chaos and disrupting the hospital’s ability to provide much needed medical care for the community.

With these potential problems in mind, the On the Safe Side Toolkit has been developed to assist hospitals, public health agencies and local law enforcement in planning for and responding to public health emergencies that might occur in their communities. This toolkit was developed by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Region 7’s Advanced Practice Center program and its regional, state and national partners in 2009/2010. It has recently been updated for 2012.

Tookit Is Easy To Use, Free

The toolkit is free and designed to give preparedness planners easy access to many of the materials they will need to appropriately respond to such emergency events. It will help them develop effective hospital security and traffic management plans for medical patient surges and other emergency situations; create a point of dispensing site security and traffic management plan for mass prophylaxis and medication distribution; prepare for and host a hospital and law enforcement multidisciplinary training workshop; and assist healthcare facilities in hosting a hospital and law enforcement security-based tabletop exercise to better prepare for such events.

The toolkit has been designed to be straightforward, easy to use and intuitive, since all of the documents and templates provided on the DVD (or downloadable zip file version) are available in Microsoft Word 97-2003 or Microsoft Power Point 2000 formats. Most of the documents in it can be quickly edited or customized to suit an agency’s or hospital’s specific requirements by simply saving them to a PC, and then using the appropriate Microsoft Office software to make the required changes.

If a user has a basic working knowledge and minimal experience with Microsoft Office applications, then he or she will be right at home in using these documents. The templates and tools are logically identified in four separate sections of the toolkit and can quickly be accessed when needed without any time being wasted on unnecessary searching or exploration. This makes it particularly valuable for just-in-time-type situations. Whether using this toolkit to enhance existing emergency plans and processes or to build a new plan from scratch, the On the Safe Side Toolkit is incredibly useful for both novice hospital security planners and seasoned emergency management personnel.

Be Prepared for the Walking Worried

As a rule, no one comes to a hospital because they want to. In a disaster situation, be it a pandemic, a chemical or radiation contamination event or a natural or manmade catastrophe, a large number of people will be descending upon local healthcare facilities. It could be due to their own injuries or to obtain treatment for family members or friends. Perhaps they want to get checked out just in case. This is a situation sometimes referred to as the “walking worried,” such as when the Sarin gas release event occurred in Tokyo in 1995. Thousands of unaffected people flooded local hospitals out of panic and quickly overwhelmed their capacity to provide medical treatment.

In such a surge, there is normally no intention to disrupt medical care or treatment for others or to harm the hospital. Then again, no single raindrop feels responsible for a flood. A patient surge resulting from a public health event is something that every hospital should be prepared for. They must have processes and plans in place to mitigate the security and traffic related problems that accompany such events. This is exactly what the On the Safe Side Toolkit is designed to do. Regardless of a hospital’s size, complexity or location, this toolkit can help hospitals quickly coordinate emergency management and security planning efforts with local law enforcement and other first responders for a variety of situations.

Resource Provides Several Templates

The On the Safe Side Toolkit contains several useful templates including a Point of Dispensing (POD) Site Security and Traffic Management Template, a Hospital Surge Security Template, a Law Enforcement and Healthcare Workshop Template and a Security-Based Tabletop Exercise Template plus various resources and support materials.

The POD (a location established to deliver appropriate pharmaceuticals or prophylaxis/vaccinations to the public) template includes sections to assist with POD site selection, site suitability assessment, security measures, traffic management assessment and a POD field operations guide. Components also include:

  • Facility and Contact Information
  • Facility Assessment — Exterior
  • Facility Assessment — Interior
  • General Facility Safety
  • Product Security and Storage
  • Facility Ingress and Egress
  • Security Points for Patient Care
  • Parking
  • POD Flow
  • Summary of Security Needs
  • Appendices — Site Diagrams

About the Author


Bryan Warren, MBA, CHPA, CPOI, is a security consultant for the healthcare industry.

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