HAP Blog

Do You Have Forward-Leaning Posture?

Timeless preparedness advice: Don’t slouch before emergencies

May 17, 2022

Maybe you’ve been told, or told your kids, “quit slouching.” You know what I’m talking about. It’s important to have the correct posture so that you don’t end up with a sore back. But what about “posture” in health care today? We have a saying in emergency management that it is important to be “forward leaning,” but with the troubling news circulating around us, where do we even start?

Recently, COVID-19 was nearing the lowest point since the summer of 2021, and then another variant of a variant emerged. Thankfully, we are not seeing the same severity of illness, but could things change? Then, there is the ever-present cybersecurity threat. It seems like we are just one spam mail or inappropriate click away from placing our health care facility in jeopardy.  You have probably heard that tornado and hurricane season is upon us. Even if an actual disaster doesn’t hit your facility, you definitely have memories of when heavy rains and high speed winds wreaked havoc on your utilities.

So, with all of these concerns—and many I didn’t list—circling around us, how do we position ourselves to be ready when the disaster meets us head on?

One of the new Joint Commission Emergency Management standards looks at Continuity of Operations Planning or COOP planning for short. Can we stop these rash of concerns from washing over our facilities? Likely, the answer is no. However, we can prioritize and prepare for how we will maintain essential operations in the midst of potential disruptions.

In other words, we can't predict when emergencies will happen or what they will be, but we can prepare. The Federal Emergency Management Agency identifies four phases of continuity of operations activation:

  1. Readiness and preparedness: This is the stage where you practice your “posture” to get ready for threats.
  2. Activation and relocation: The next step is to identify when you need to initiate your plan in times of crisis. This could require transfer of equipment, records, or personnel to alternate locations.
  3. Continuity of operations: Here, you’re putting your plans into motion.
  4. Reconstitution: This is your “return to normal” phase, after your plans have been successfully deployed.

You’ll benefit from this type of planning whether you’re dealing with an infectious disease, a cybersecurity threat, or a storm. The pandemic has given us the opportunity to mitigate impact through scaling-down services to meet the most critical patient’s needs. Your IT professional may feel like a quilter, placing patch after patch on the programs that we use daily. All the while you are practicing your downtime procedures in case that malware still makes it through. And when that next natural disaster comes through affecting your utilities, you must make sure redundant systems kick in and adequately supply essential areas.

So maybe now is the time to get your “posture” correct and lean into those disasters that are out there. If you’re prepared, and practiced, you will stand tall under pressure.

For more information about COOP planning and forward-leaning posture, contact me or HAP’s emergency management team.

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