Power failures, fires, floods, industrial accidents, cyberattacks—disasters such as these can put both health care organizations and their patients at risk. A new Quick Safety advisory from The Joint Commission provides healthcare organizations with risk factors, safety recommendations, and research on how to continue operations during an emergency.

Continuity of operations planning (COOP) provides organizations with the resilience needed to protect, respond, recover and restore essential patient care services. Following a disaster, an organization’s capability to provide care, treatment and services can be disrupted for days, weeks, several months or longer.

According to the advisory, best practices in COOP include, at a minimum:

  • Continuity of facilities and communications to support organizational functions
  • A succession plan that lists who replaces the key leader(s) during an emergency if the leader is not available to carry out his or her duties
  • A delegation of authority plan that describes the decisions and policies that can be implemented by authorized successors

The advisory also provides several safety actions for health care organizations to consider such as documenting leadership succession and delegations of authority; identifying the essential functions, capabilities and assets that must be protected to survive a disaster; and prioritizing likely risks and how the organization will invest in and implement mitigation activities.

Other safety actions include working with local emergency management, service providers and contractors to establish processes for effective communications, recovery and restoration, and the identification of alternate care sites, if needed.