Joint Commission report spotlights disaster planning


During your next survey with the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, you’ll notice surveyors paying extra attention to your disaster plan. The Joint Commission has issued a special report on preparation for terrorist attacks involving biological, chemical, or nuclear incidents. The report also contains "lessons learned" from hospitals in New York and Washington, DC, following the Sept. 11 attacks. Joint Commission surveyors will be paying "particular attention" to emergency management planning, according to the report.

To begin with, you must be familiar with current Joint Commission standards for disaster planning, says Michelle H. Pelling, MBA, RN, president of The ProPell Group, a Portland, OR-based health care consulting firm specializing in compliance. While considerations for disaster planning are addressed throughout the Environment of Care standards, the sections that specifically address disaster planning are: EC.1.4: Planning for emergency management; EC.2.4: Implementing the emergency management plan; and EC 2.9: Conducting emergency drills, says Pelling.

She points to two key priorities:

  • to have clearly defined processes for responding to a disaster defined;
  • to ensure that staff are educated as to what their responsibilities are and can articulate these responsibilities to surveyors.

Surveyors will ask:

  • Has the organization performed a hazard vulnerability analysis?
  • What did it identify?
  • How has the organizations addressed the findings?

Joint Commission surveyors are in a data-gathering mode, explains Pelling. "They want to be able to support health care organizations by providing them guidance and information on how they should prepare for potential terrorist attacks," she adds. For example, the Joint Commission has offered a detailed explanation of what is required for EC.1.4, she notes. "The items delineated in EC.1.4 primarily address the processes that organizations should have in place to respond and recover from a disaster that could result for a terrorist attack or other event," she says.

(Editor’s Note: A complete copy of the Joint Commission report is available in a special issue of "Perspectives" at issue.)


For more information about the report, contact: Michelle H. Pelling, MBA, RN, The ProPell Group, P.O. Box 6052, Portland, OR 97228. Telephone: (503) 641-1987. E-mail: Web: