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Hospital Emergency Preparedness for Natural Disasters

Author: ServiceMaster Restore

Immediately following a natural disaster, communities count on hospitals to stay open, operate as smoothly as possible and help save lives. Sometimes, hospitals are the only places that people can access to receive urgent medical treatment in a disaster, making it crucial that each facility has an emergency management system in place. Find out what goes into hospital emergency preparedness with help from ServiceMaster Restore.


While natural disasters cannot be prevented, hospitals can minimize the toll they take on communities by training staff about what to do before a disaster ever strikes. That way, if a surge in patients occurs because of an emergency, all employees will know how to react to the situation, including which responsibilities they may own during the recovery process.

Each hospital should already have a documented hospital disaster plan in place. These plans should include specific communication protocols, where and how staff can access stockpiled medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE), and how to handle an influx of patients who all need urgent treatment. Once created, regular drills and training courses should be provided to help teach employees what to do, as well as identify gaps in the plan. Government organizations like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have manuals like the Hospital Surge Evaluation Tool to help each facility conduct drills and evaluate their own readiness for emergency situations.


Since natural disaster risks vary enormously depending on geography, emergency preparedness plans will differ based on a hospital’s location. In Florida, for example, a disaster management plan for hospitals should focus greatly on preparing for hurricanes and floods. California hospitals, on the other hand, may want to focus on earthquakes and wildfire preparedness. By understanding which risks are most likely to happen in the area, hospitals can better prepare for each unique situation.


Losing electricity is a major inconvenience for most residences and businesses, but for a hospital, it can be a matter of life and death. Electronic equipment is vital for providing vulnerable patients with the medical care they need. That’s why hospitals need to ensure they can supply their own power in the event that a natural disaster knocks out the power grid. Many facilities use combined heat and power (CHP) systems, also known as cogeneration, which produces both heat and electricity from a single fuel source to reduce the strain on their infrastructures.


Hospitals can provide a huge amount of support during a natural disaster, but even the best run and best-prepared hospitals can quickly become overwhelmed by a flood of patients. The best way to prevent a hospital from getting overwhelmed is by ensuring the community has the resources and knowledge they need to take care of themselves as best they can. Hospitals can work with other emergency providers, including shelters and social services, to ensure that the public knows that the hospital isn't the only place to turn to for help.

Public education campaigns like teaching the community how to make an emergency kit or providing business owners with emergency management guides can help hospitals by reducing the influx of patients during a disaster. If minor injuries are treated elsewhere, healthcare providers are able to focus on treating those who most urgently need care first.

With proper planning and preparation, hospitals are well equipped to save many lives during a disaster. If you work in a healthcare setting and need help planning for possible disasters, use resources provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These tools help several types of healthcare facilities stay open and work smoothly through a public health emergency. Check guidelines like disaster preparedness budgets to help estimate how many resources your facility may need in a disaster, supply chain planning documents and triage requirements and specifications during emergencies.

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