What Your Office Needs for Disaster Preparedness



The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requires certain health care provider and supplier types to have components in place for disaster preparedness. For instance, clinics which provide outpatient Occupational or Physical Therapy services must have the four elements of compliance in place.  The four components of compliance include a Hazard Vulnerability Assessment, Policies & Procedures, Communication Plan, and Training & Testing.


Even if your provider or supplier type is not required by CMS to follow the Emergency Preparedness Rule, this Rule provides good guidelines for medical offices to follow to prepare their employees, visitors, and patients for an emergency event.


Let’s take a look at the four required components to understand why each of these are helpful and important guidelines to follow in your practice.



Hazard Vulnerability Assessment

A Hazard Vulnerability Assessment (HVA) is required to assess and document potential hazards that can impact your community or region, and to identify gaps or challenges you may face with those potential hazards.


Completing a HVA, even when not required, helps your practice consider and think of all scenarios that could potentially affect your practice. Many practices may overlook potential natural or man-made disasters that can occur in their community, and even the potential impact those would have on them. 



Policies & Procedure

The CMS Rule requires provider and supplier types to develop specific emergency preparedness policies and procedures to ensure the steps laid out in an emergency event result in successful outcomes.


Working in health care, we all know too well that documentation is key! Having written steps and procedures for employees to follow ensures that the same guidance is communicated clearly to all employees.  These policies and procedures help ensure that employees have something documented to refer to and there is no miscommunication on the appropriate procedures to abide by.



Communication Plan

The Rule requires provider and supplier types to have a written communication plan for efficient contact with outside agencies and authorities, as well as with patients.


Having a written Communication Plan provides proper guidance to employees on the steps to follow for timely and efficient communication with the necessary parties. This also lists out the methods of communication, which can save time and anxiety when communication must be made quickly.



Training & Testing

The Rule requires that all staff and practitioners have proper training to implement the plan when an emergency situation arises.  It is also required that the plan be tested twice a year (sometimes more, depending on the provider or supplier type).


Without proper training and testing of your plan in place, your employees may be at a loss for how to proceed in an emergency event. With proper exercises conducted, employees are more likely to respond in an appropriate manner, react quicker and calmer in a real disaster, and better be able to provide care for your patients.



When a disaster happens, you will be thankful you have this information. It may also be advantageous to follow these guidelines, even if your provider or supplier type is not listed, as there are rumors CMS will require these components for all provider and supplier types in the future.



Click here to learn more about the provider and supplier types who must participate.


Click here for a CMS Emergency Preparedness Rule Fact Sheet.





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