Joint Commission’s New Emergency Management Checklist

This member-only article appears in the January issue of Patient Safety Monitor Journal.

On October 10, Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida, forcing at least two hospitals to evacuate all of their patients after their buildings sustained heavy damage. On the same day, The Joint Commission (TJC) published a new Emergency Management Health Care Environment Checklist on its website, which helps healthcare organizations that are reopening their facilities after a disaster.

While the timing of these two events was coincidental, providers should take time to go over the checklist—and their emergency plans in general.

A TJC workgroup developed the checklist at the request of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. It aligns with TJC emergency management standards, covers both clinical and environmental issues, and addresses crucial post-disaster elements that need to be addressed before a facility reopens. It should be noted that the checklist isn’t hurricane-specific.

Jim Kendig is TJC’s field director of Life Safety Code® specialists. He says it’s critical that hospitals customize the checklist for their needs by examining the relationships they establish in the community, and at the regional and state levels.

“For example, in Florida, a county Office of Emergency Management met with utilities and other emergency support functions to determine hospitals and PSAPS [public safety answering points] are the first to receive power restoration,” Kendig says. “Establishing an unidentified victims process is also a good start, as is the ability to share that information within an hour of a disaster event.”

TJC’s checklist was also informed by real-world events to ensure its durability.

“The Joint Commission’s Emergency Management Committee continues meeting with organizations after disaster events to glean important information to share with the field through our Environment of Care News and ongoing communications,” he adds. “This also gives us the opportunity to ensure that our standards and elements of performance are effective and contemporary.”