Heidi P. Cordi, MD: Does Your Hospital Have a Disaster Plan in Place in the Event of an Emergency?

Dr. Heidi P. Cordi, MDHospitals can face a variety of adverse events ranging from natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and pandemics, to human-caused catastrophes such as terrorist and cybersecurity attacks.

Disasters in and around a hospital can have a huge impact on the facility, its employees, and even the communities they serve. Hospitals must be able to handle the additional surge of patients and care for the ill and injured while still trying to run their daily operations. Lessons learned over the past few decades demonstrate that hospitals must also prepare for the worst, especially disasters that may have a widespread impact. Reviewing past disasters can provide insight into effective disaster planning. However, with limited resources, hospitals must focus on disasters that would most likely occur.

Hospital disaster preparedness can be complex. Planning helps to manage a crisis by anticipating the range of potential issues, such as medication shortages and power outages. Reviewing lessons learned from other disasters allows planners to better manage the unforeseen impacts. Ultimately, the goal of a hospital disaster plan is to ensure readiness to continue daily operations while treating a surge of people requiring medical attention.

Key Elements of a Hospital Disaster Plan

All hospitals should have a Hospital Emergency Operations Plan, and it should be updated regularly. There are six key elements that every hospital plan should address, according to the Joint Commission:

  • Communications
  • Clinical and support activities
  • Resources and assets
  • Safety and security
  • Staff responsibilities
  • Utilities

Once a hospital disaster plan is created, practice is imperative. It ensures that everyone involved is familiar with the process of moving through the crisis. Staging disaster preparedness drills biannually is also a requirement enforced by accrediting bodies like the Joint Commission and the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Exercises must be thoughtfully considered and can be implemented in a variety of ways such as table-top and field exercises. It is challenging, maybe almost impossible, to test the entire plan. But having well-formulated objectives helps to streamline disaster operations. Without planning and preparation, it will be challenging to manage the patient surge. A well-implemented hospital disaster plan saves lives.

Dr. Heidi P. Cordi, MD, FACEP, FAADM is a board-certified physician in disaster medicine by the American Board of Disaster Medicine, a Member Board of the American Board of Physician Specialties® (ABPS).

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Medical organizations throughout North America understand that our rigorous certification standards prove that ABPS Diplomates are capable of delivering the best patient care possible.

On October 18, 2007, President George W. Bush released Homeland Security Presidential Directive 21 (HSPD-21), calling on our nation, among other initiatives, to “collectively support and facilitate the establishment of a discipline of disaster health”. It is a great testament to the wisdom and foresight of the American Board of Physician Specialties that it immediately set to work and created, within the short span of only one year, an educational blueprint and set of certification examinations, both written and oral, for a new subspecialty of disaster medicine—and it is why I chose to be part this vital initiative and this wonderful organization. This is but one of the many innovative programs initiated by the American Board of Physician Specialties over the years, and why I am proud to support its work on behalf of our nation’s public health.

Art Cooper, MD
Disaster Medicine
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Ann Marie Chiasson, MD
Integrative Medicine
There are many ways board certification advances a physician career. ABPS Board examination verifies your accuracy, precision, and reflects your mastery of your residency training verifying your expertise. ABPS Board certification demonstrates your level of expertise beyond your practice experience, primary education degrees, and training which are necessary for insurance reimbursement and practice privilege requirements. Attaining your ABPS Board Certification will clarify your purpose, secure your practice growth, and expand into leadership positions. Board certification can serve as an indication of a physician’s commitment to medicine, beyond the minimal standards and competency of training, their measurement to quality of care, and attaining an award for excellence.

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Internal Medicine
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Emergency Medicine
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Richard Paula, MD
Administrative Medicine
The American Board of Physician Specialties has provided me with the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of internal medicine through board certification. As a hospitalist, board certification is an expected credential, and hospitals recognize the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) as one of the three standard credentialling bodies for Internal Medicine. Additionally, the ABPS has helped me develop leadership skills as a Board member and Committee Chairperson. ABPS has also helped me sharpen critical thinking skills as a test question developer and reviewer. The Allopathic (MD) and Osteopathic (DO) physicians in the ABPS are lifelong learners and frequently pursue multiple board certifications. I enjoy the camaraderie of my peers in ABPS.

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Internal Medicine