When it comes to health care and emergency/disaster preparedness, a lot has changed over the years, and in a positive way. Take, for example, the intense collaboration between the health care and public safety communities after 9/11 and the eventual formation of ten regional health care coalitions (HCCs) across the country. Today, these HCCs not only play a crucial role in our nation’s preparedness and health care disaster operations but also in localized response, recovery, and resilience. And they do so with a great deal of forethought and planning, particularly in the area of Continuity of Operations, or COOP.
HCCs, as explained in a previous blog post by BOLDplanning (a division of Agility), reflect the unique needs and characteristics of local jurisdictions and support teamwork to ensure each member has what it needs to respond to emergencies. These involve natural disasters and mass casualty/mass effect events, after which HCCs can provide additional medical equipment, supplies, and personnel if needed. Also, public health risks, such as COVID-19, during which HCCs can provide personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies, coordinate patient transfers, and train health care workers on testing and treatment guidelines.
But the role of HCCs is even greater given these unprecedented times. Besides filling critical health care gaps in large-scale emergencies/disasters, HCCs provide communities and health care organizations with numerous other benefits. Among them are:
- Greater situational awareness through improved information sharing among participating health care organizations and jurisdictional authorities.
- An expedited mutual aid process or other resource-sharing arrangements among coalition members, including state, local, and federal authorities.
- More effective support for health care system resiliency and medical surge (by facilitating interaction between the coalition(s) and relevant jurisdictional authorities).
- Better planning, training, exercising, and evaluation of health care system preparedness.
Consider the work (and accomplishments) of one HCC client of BOLDplanning – the Central Florida Disaster Medical Coalition (CFDMC). As explained in a recent case study, CFDMC serves healthcare organizations in Florida’s Region 5, including the counties of Brevard, Indian River, Lake, Martin, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, St. Lucie, and Volusia. Or the continued COOP planning efforts of the Tennessee Highland Rim Health Care Coalition, which responds to public health and medical impacts within Tennessee Emergency Medical Services, Region 5.
Like other HCCs nationwide, both coalitions know that COOP planning (as standardized for health care by the Joint Commission) can make the continuance of essential services possible. And even under the worst circumstances — whether extensive power outage caused by a major hurricane, widespread property damage brought about by catastrophic flooding, or staffing shortages due to a global pandemic. Both HCCs (and others) also know that they can look to BOLDplanning to support their continuity planning efforts now and in the days to come.