What Comes After COVID-19?
“Ramping Up” and Down Your Preparedness
March 30, 2023
As emergency managers, we are prepared and ready to go where disaster strikes. If we were driving an ambulance, the last few years have felt like constant lights and sirens, but even ambulances idle down when they’ve reached their destination.
The pandemic has been one long emergency ride. In the hospital setting, this means enacting our emergency operations plan, staffing our command center, and filling in our incident command roles as staff arrive. During this response period, we are managing our facility through two lenses:
- Setting objectives to tackle the current disaster
- Ensuring that essential functions are maintained in our facility despite the crisis at hand
Once the calamity comes to a close and our facility is functioning under normal operations, we gather our staff and external partners, complete our after-action report, and start on our improvement plan—and the emergency management cycle continues.
But what happens when that disaster or disruption in your normal operations drags on for three years?
The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology (SHEA) recently released recommendations that indicate how far we have come in our pandemic response. Nearly three years into the pandemic, SHEA now says that screening of asymptomatic patients for COVID-19 is no longer necessary in health care facilities. Similarly, we have seen facilities begin to ease on their protocols for masking, as well.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe we are now at the point we can peel back the layers of protection that we have initiated during the last three difficult years, but this is a hopeful sign for us all. No one can live in the emergency phase of a crisis forever.
Pivoting away from COVID-19, and you can probably identify some other initiatives through the years that were great and timely and, due to one reason or another (finances, manpower, particular staff changes roles), the sun set on those initiatives as well.
Our work with after-action reports and hazard vulnerability assessments can assist in both supporting these layers of protection and showing us new hazards where we need to focus our attention and resources. I’m thankful we’ve reached this point in our pandemic response that we can look back at what worked and what could be improved in the face of the next emergency.
In my experience, teams are adept and efficient at pulling together to face a disaster. It can be more difficult to accept a degree of risk when we start to pull back on our protective measures. Just remember, although we can’t stay in a full court press forever, we can keep our game plan for the next response.