Patient education crucial for emergency planning

Make sure patients have the essentials

As you let your staff members know about changes to your emergency plans, don’t forget that patients also need information, says Rita Lapham, RN, director of patients services and owner of Golden Age Home Health in Oklahoma City.

It’s not necessary to create many of the materials, Lapham points out. "We use pamphlets from the [American] Red Cross that address natural disasters as well as terrorist attacks and anthrax exposure," she explains.

Because patients are likely to experience weather-related emergencies, the admission packet also includes emergency supply check- lists that help patients and families prepare for tornadoes and their aftereffects, Lapham says.

"We want to make sure that patients have essentials such as flashlights, extra batteries, and drinking water," she says. "Whenever I’m in the field, I also check to make sure patients’ portable oxygen tanks are full and that patients know to call a family member to come and get them if they lose electrical power."

Another important part of the patient education packet is a list of community services such as the American Red Cross, fire departments, police departments, emergency management offices, senior citizens services department, and other places that a patient might need to contact during or after an emergency, Lapham says. When developing this type of list, also include the telephone numbers of gas and electrical companies that serve your area as well as water department emergency numbers, she adds.

Lapham provides information on how to contact her agency if the patients leave their homes to go elsewhere during an emergency.

"We also make a list of the supplies patients should carry with them if they go somewhere else," she says.

Patients and their family members should know to carry items such as wound care supplies, medications, oxygen, and diabetic-testing supplies with them when they go elsewhere, Lapham adds.