Emergency evacuation procedures are of utmost importance in healthcare facilities to safeguard the lives of patients, personnel, and visitors. With the rising unpredictability of events such as terrorism, violence, fires, and severe weather conditions, comprehensive evacuation plans are essential. This blog post aims to summarize the key points from EVAC+CHAIR®’s Evacuation Checklist for Healthcare Facilities, providing valuable insights into creating a safe and inclusive environment during emergencies.
- The Need for a Plan:
The vulnerability of patients and individuals with disabilities in healthcare premises necessitates effective emergency evacuation plans. The goal is to ensure the safe evacuation of everyone in the facility. Pre-planning for emergencies is crucial, as it allows healthcare facilities to identify and prevent risks and accommodate the specific needs of patients and visitors.
- Legal Considerations:
Healthcare facilities must comply with relevant regulations and standards. In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on disability. Evacuation plans should address the needs of individuals with disabilities, including the provision of mobility aids such as evacuation chairs. Compliance with standards like NFPA 101 and ANSI/RESNA ED-1 is crucial for ensuring safer alternatives for stair descent.
- Planning Considerations:
State and local governments are mandated to make emergency preparedness programs accessible to individuals with disabilities and other individuals with access and functional needs. Inclusive planning involves involving representatives from the community and functional needs support service providers. Key considerations include inviting participation in planning processes, creating dedicated planning positions, adopting a multi-agency approach, and purchasing accessible equipment and resources.
- Evacuation Strategies:
Healthcare facilities employ three main evacuation strategies:
- Simultaneous Evacuation: Suitable for smaller facilities where patients can evacuate quickly to a place of total safety. Visitors, mobile residents, and non-evacuation-assisting staff may also use this strategy.
- Horizontal/Progressive Evacuation: Involves moving patients away from the affected area to adjoining fire-protected areas until the fire is controlled. Patients may remain there or be further evacuated to ensure their safety.
- Delayed Evacuation: In exceptional cases where immediate evacuation is not practical, patients remain in fire-protected rooms or refuges until the danger subsides or they can be safely moved.
- Emergency Evacuation Plans:
Emergency plans must encompass preparedness, response, and recovery phases. External outreach, training, exercises, shelter-in-place protocols, evacuation support, emergency shelters, and disaster recovery services should be included. Additionally, developing a Generic Emergency Evacuation Plan (GEEP) helps visitors with restricted mobility become familiar with evacuation procedures, equipment, and communication devices.
Ensuring the safety of patients, personnel, and visitors during emergencies is a paramount responsibility for healthcare facilities. By implementing comprehensive emergency evacuation plans, healthcare facilities can minimize risks, accommodate the needs of individuals with disabilities, and provide a safe environment for all. Compliance with legal considerations, involving stakeholders in planning, and employing appropriate evacuation strategies are vital steps to achieve a successful emergency response. By following the guidelines outlined in the Evacuation Checklist for Healthcare Facilities, healthcare providers can navigate challenging situations with confidence, safeguarding lives, and well-being.
Remember, the safety and well-being of everyone in healthcare facilities should always be the top priority during emergency situations.