JCAHO Issues Emergency Planning Guide

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) has issued a guide called Standing Together: An Emergency Planning Guide for America’s Communities for small, rural and suburban communities to both prepare for and successfully respond to major local and regional emergencies – whether they be hurricanes, floods, terrorist attacks, major infectious outbreaks, hazardous materials spills, or other catastrophic occurrences.

The comprehensive planning guide provides 13 essential steps that local government and public health leaders can use to establish an effective community-based emergency management planning and response process. These steps acknowledge that small communities face a number of significant barriers to emergency readiness, such as uncertainty about who is responsible for planning, how to fund emergency readiness efforts, what exactly constitutes the planning and response processes, and how to coordinate with state and federal emergency management resources.

“America’s small towns and rural communities need practical tools to prepare for the various types of disasters that can inflict devastating harm in the form of lost lives and damage to critical community infrastructure and property,” says Joseph Cappiello, vice president, accreditation field operations, joint commission. “The time for the collaboration, coordination and communication that is vital to a strong emergency preparedness plan is now.”

The guide offers a number of specific real-world examples, such as safeguarding data and systems in the event of a natural disaster; establishing linkages with federal and state mental health resources; ensuring culturally sensitive communication; and identifying appropriate planning partners.

The 13 identified sequential components of an effective community-based emergency management planning process build on the recommendations set forth in JCAHO’s March 2003 white paper, Health Care at the Crossroads: Strategies for Creating and Sustaining Community-wide Emergency Preparedness Systems. In the new guide, the strategies for and examples of each component are geared specifically to small, rural and suburban communities.

The component steps are to1) Define the community; 2) Identify and establish an emergency management preparedness and response team; 3) Determine the risks and hazards the community faces; 4) Set goals for preparedness and response planning; 5) Determine current capacities and capabilities; 6) Develop the integrated plan; 7) Ensure thorough communication planning; 8) Ensure thorough mental health planning; 9) Ensure planning related to vulnerable populations; 10) Identify, cultivate, and sustain funding sources; 11) Train, exercise, and drill collaboratively; 12) Critique and improve the integrated community plan; 13) Sustain collaboration, communication, and coordination.

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