Long-term care facilities (LTCFs) have faced severe challenges in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted LTCFs and their residents nationwide. In addition, LTCFs have responded to numerous natural disasters—including hurricanes, floods, and wildfires—which have become increasingly severe and frequent.
Given these growing challenges—and the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic—long-term care facilities should review and update their emergency preparedness plans. A comprehensive, up-to-date plan can help mitigate the impact of disasters and infectious diseases—and save lives. Updating your emergency preparedness plan will also help your facility and staff prepare for surveyor visits.
LTCFs must comply with all applicable local, state, and federal emergency preparedness requirements. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) mandates that any LTCF participating in Medicare and Medicaid must review and update its emergency plan annually.1 However, the annual review is a best practice for all LTC facilities.
The guidance that follows is applicable to all types of LTCFs, including skilled nursing facilities, memory care facilities, assisted living residences, CCRC’s (Continuing Care Retirement Community), independent living facilities, and adult family homes.
Disasters range widely and require different types of responses, but every long-term care facility’s emergency program should include the following components:
Severe weather events, wildfires, and earthquakes all have the potential to disrupt the operations of long-term care facilities and endanger residents. While LTCFs must prepare for worst-case disasters, they should also be prepared to respond to smaller-scale disruptions, such as water and power outages, with appropriate measures.
LTCFs should have a detailed plan that enables your facility to continue providing physical and emotional care to your residents in the event of any type of emergency. Your plan should cover:
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need for long-term care facilities to prepare not only for pandemics, but also for outbreaks of highly communicable and emergent infectious diseases. Strong emergency planning, training, and procedures can help minimize the spread of these illnesses. In addition to the core steps of staffing, training, communications, and coordination discussed above, your plan should include:
Preparing for emergencies is an ongoing process, not a task to be completed and forgotten. LTCFs should regularly reassess risks – both natural and man-made – and update plans, communications, and training. Your planning may also be affected by changes in local resources, the availability of transportation, the expansion of your facility, and other factors.
An important best practice is to establish a specific time each year to formally evaluate and update your plan. You’ll want to review major risks facing your facility, confirm and update contacts, and add new procedures and policies as needed. Keep in mind that most LTCFs are required by law to review and update their emergency preparedness plan every year.
Because COVID-19 and increasing natural disasters have changed the risk landscape, you may want to consider retaining a third-party risk consultant to help evaluate and update your emergency plan. Your insurer can also be a valuable resource for emergency planning – and for reviewing your overall risk plan. For more information, contact Chubb Healthcare or your independent broker or agent.
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