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Disaster planning for care providers

It’s vital for the health of your care business to have plans in place to respond to a disaster situation or a potential security threat. Criminal activity, natural disasters or terrorism are risks you need to consider. The consequences of a disaster can be severe if you are not properly prepared.

The best thing you can do to prepare for these risks, is to have a comprehensive response plan to minimise the damage in a disaster situation. The last thing you want is to be taken by surprise. Many of these risks are unpredictable, make sure you prepare.

In 2017 severe weather meant that Woodside Care Home in Aberdeen and The Meadows Care Home in Huntly both had to evacuate their residents. They were able to evacuate quickly and safely and were praised by the local authority2. Preparation was key.

Without identifying appropriate defences for your business through assessments and detailed planning, you could leave your business open to financial ruin. You could also expose your residents or patients to danger if you’re unable to stay open at a crucial time, resulting in negligence claims.

Maintaining site security

Not all security threats are avoidable, but some are preventable with appropriate preparation.

In 2018 an employee at Ledbury Nursing Home in Herefordshire was suspended for stealing from residents3. It is important to assess your site security and make improvements1

If necessary you might need to:

  • Train all staff and volunteers to report any suspicious activity in or around the facility.
  • Train staff on visitor control procedures such as mandatory sign-ins, strict visiting hours, etc.
  • Survey all security devices such as locks, exterior lights, alarms and other physical devices to ensure they’re where they should be and operational.
  • Make sure fire systems are regularly inspected and maintained. Also train an appropriate number of staff on how to activate, operate and shut them down.
  • Carry out regular inspections of your security perimeter and key protective features of your site.
  • Use precautions if you are storing explosive, flammable or toxic chemicals. These areas should be properly secured and inventoried.
  • Evaluate critical locations in your facility for proper security, including the electric, telephone and gas units, building entrances etc.
  • Take precautions when securing medication storage areas. This is potentially your largest risk of theft.
  • CCTV can serve as a great deterrent, and when the system has a recorder it can help support claims.
  • Review your procedures for issuing facility keys. Keep lists or use a monitoring system for issued keys. Have a procedure for situations where an employee leaves your business without returning issued keys.
  • Have your local fire service conduct a pre-planned visit to your building. While there, they can identify potential hazards and plan fire suppression priorities.

Planning for a disaster

You can best prepare your care business by putting together a disaster response plan.

  • Develop a disaster recovery or business continuity plan. Whether you’re a domiciliary care provider, you run a care home, provide direct care or are a surgery, it’s important to make sure you have a plan and it’s kept up-to-date. This will prepare you for anything that disrupts your operations and it gives you a backup plan.
  • Keep your critical documents including insurance policies in a safe and easily accessible place.
  • Review your policy for off-site backup records. Ideally you should back-up your records and send them off-site on a daily basis.
  • Understand which disasters are most likely to occur in your area, include the possibility for terrorist activity.
  • Establish evacuation procedures, namely how you would safely evacuate and transport patients in the event that it is necessary.
  • Make a policy for communicating about patients between business sites. It’s important to have clear communication channels during a disaster.
  • Consider creating an alternate method for your phone service if you have issues with your main phone lines. Include key personnel contact information in your procedures so staff members are contactable out of hours.

Source:

  1. Zywave – panning ahead for a disaster
  2. https://www.fshc.co.uk/our-news/2016/scottish-care-homes-evacuated-due-to-flood-danger/
  3. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hereford-worcester-42582906
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