Should we stay or should we go? Evacuation considerations for health care facilities in an emergency situation

Blog Post created by susanmckelvey Employee on Oct 24, 2018

Nick Gabrielle of Russell Phillips & Associates reinforces the importance of healthcare facilities planning ahead in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency situation that may require evacuation.


During natural disasters and other emergency situations, healthcare facilities may need to decide whether residents should stay put or be evacuated to another facility. While there is no silver bullet answer or easy “if then” algorithm for making that decision, advance planning is essential to effectively keeping people safe.

At NFPA’s 2018 C&E in Las Vegas this past June, co-presenters Nick Gabrielle and David Hood of Russell Phillips & Associates, provided stories and lessons learned from past incidents, highlighting the critical value of planning ahead. While facilities need to be flexible and dynamic in the event of an evacuation, the planning process should include these steps and strategies:


  • Identify your facility’s vulnerabilities and create a plan ahead of time for how they would be handled in a crisis. Get local emergency management facilities involved - let them know about your vulnerabilities and start those conversations early.
  • Establish staff’s roles and responsibilities in an evacuation, along with a command system that they are familiar with and will know how to execute/implement.
  • Prepare for who will take medical records, medications, and equipment, and develop a system to track where they go.
  • Develop relationships and MOUs with coalitions, transportation groups and receiving facilities that you can work with in the event of an evacuation. Knowing that your residents have somewhere to go will enable you to confidently execute an evacuation if needed; you won’t be hesitant to pull the trigger.
  • Conduct trainings and exercises to practice all elements of your evacuation plan; conduct a timed evacuation self-assessment to see how long it would take to get everyone out.


Gabrielle and Hood also addressed issues that need to be considered if an emergency situation occurs. In deciding if evacuation is needed, you have to consider the intensity of the event, when it will actually happen, and how long it will likely last. In addition, you need to know what other facilities around you are doing. For example, if another hospital is evacuating people, this may impact your decision.


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