Emergency Planning for the Home Health Care Community

As we are in the midst of the 2019 hurricane and tropical storm season with Dorian and Imelda already wreaking havoc, we thought it prudent to once again revisit the need for emergency preparedness among one of the most vulnerable populations: individuals with home health care needs. 

Whether it’s flooding, a wildfire, power outage or other event, it’s important that home health care providers help their patients get and remain emergency-ready. In fact, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) requires that home health agencies in their emergency plan’s policies and procedures ensure all patients have an individualized plan in the event of an emergency. This individual plan must be included as part of the patient’s comprehensive assessment. Additionally, the individualized emergency plan should be in writing.

Following are procedures a home health care agency should include in their individualized patient emergency plans in coordination with the family and patient/client: 

General Info

  • The plan should include procedures on how to prepare for each hazard that could potentially impact the local community and how to protect the home health care patient. For instance, most people shelter in a basement when there is a tornado warning, but most basements are not wheelchair-accessible. Determine in advance an alternative shelter and how the individual will get there. 
  • Plan with the family for the safety of pets as well. 
  • Let neighbors know of any special needs. 
  • Have a communication plan in place to contact caregivers, loved ones, and neighbors.
  • Once the plan is devised, be sure to review it with the patient and his/her family members. 

Be Prepared

  • Notify the local emergency management team to make them aware of the patient’s special needs.
  • If the patient uses a wheelchair, make exits from the home wheelchair-accessible. Practice emergency evacuation drills at least two times a year, or any time the emergency plan is updated or there is a change in the layout of the home’s furniture. Be sure to include family and/or the home care aide in the drills.
  • If the patient depends on electrical medical equipment, ask the utility provider to list him/her as a “life-sustaining equipment customer.”
  • Be sure the patient or family member knows how to connect and start a back-up power supply for essential medical equipment. 
  • Have a medical alert system that allows the patient to call for help if he or she is immobilized in an emergency.
  • Stock at least a three-day (up to 2-weeks) supply of water, nonperishable food, and necessary medicines such as prescriptions, treatments, or oxygen.
  • If the patient can drive, be sure the car is filled with gas and stocked with emergency supplies. Be sure the wheelchair is tuned, fully charged, stocked with supplies, and if needed, winterized with snow tires.
  • Make sure patient or a family member knows how to turn off utilities such as gas, water, and electricity if required before evacuation.
  • Store important documents in one place.
  • Have an emergency to-go bag on hand. 

Inside the Emergency To-Go Bag

  • Copies of important documents such as the patient’s home care plan; list of medications; physician, nurse, and family and emergency contact list; medical records; and Social Security, Medicaid, prescription and insurance cards
  • Medications and medical supplies (especially life sustaining such as insulin, etc.)
  • Cell phone with charger
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Extra eyeglasses
  • Lighter or matches
  • Blanket
  • Food, water, clothing, and toiletries

If Needed:

  • Battery-powered radio/NOAA weather radio
  • Lightweight backup oxygen system
  • Cannula, tubing, gasket, charger, and batteries for an oxygen regulator
  • Pulse oximeter
  • Ventilator and/or CPAP supplies
  • Hearing aid and batteries
  • Assistive devices

Manchester Specialty Programs specializes in providing the home health care industry with comprehensive insurance solutions, including General Liability, Commercial Property, Professional Liability, Cyber Liability, Workers Compensation, and other coverages. For more information about how our products and services can help protect your insureds, please contact us at 855.972.9399.

Source: American Red Cross