From Hurricane Michael destroying parts of the Florida panhandle to Hurricane Florence flooding the Carolinas to Hurricane Lane causing mudslides in Hawaii to the seemingly endless and devastating California wildfires, 2018 has been a cautionary tale when it comes to natural disasters. Lessons learned? They can be frequent, big, long, and deadly.

Surgery centers and other healthcare organizations should not grow complacent, believing a disaster will not affect their area.

To reinforce the message that every site should be prepared, the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) has issued new educational resources about emergency preparedness. (Editor’s Note: Learn more about these resources at:

Emergencies include more than natural disasters; such events also include active shooters, terrorism, cyberattacks, drug/supply shortages, power outages, and infectious disease outbreaks. These events can occur in any healthcare setting, in any location, any time.

Surgery centers should start by creating a crisis plan and practicing scenarios before a disaster strikes. Studies show that ASCs can prepare for emergencies more effectively by holding simulations or disaster drills.1,2

AAAHC’s survey data show that more than 10% of healthcare organizations experience difficulty complying with emergency preparedness standards set by AAAHC as well as CMS’ Conditions of Coverage.

Thus, AAAHC decided to update its patient safety toolkit to make planning easier. The updated toolkit contains evidence-based recommendations for creating, instituting, and evaluating emergency drills to help organizations strengthen preparedness and meet standards compliance.

“Checklists, mock emergency drills, and other exercises allow organizations to assess emergency action plans as well as teams’ readiness to respond to real crises,” Kris Kilgore, RN, BSN, an AAAHC surveyor, said in an organization news release. “It is important to involve all staff in these exercises, as teamwork during simulations may help reduce errors and ensure better results when actual emergencies strike.”

(Editor’s Note: Kilgore led a webinar on this subject in September. AAAHC offers this webinar for purchase at:

According to AAAHC, the six elements to emergency drills are:

  • assess the internal disaster and emergency preparedness plan;
  • plan for drilling and simulations;
  • inform everyone that a drill will occur;
  • run through the drill as if it were a real emergency;
  • evaluate everyone’s performance after the drill;
  • take corrective actions as needed.

The evaluation process includes documenting each step taken and identifying each area of weakness. These include areas in which the ASC needs to improve to meet specific requirements and to boost efficiency.


  1. Zakhary BM, Kam LM, Kaufman BS, Felner KJ. The utility of high-fidelity simulation for training critical care fellows in the management of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation emergencies: A randomized controlled trial. Crit Care Med 2017;45:1367-1373.
  2. Ross JC, Trainor JL, Eppich WJ, Adler MD. Impact of simulation training on time to initiation of cardiopulmonary resuscitation for first-year pediatrics residents. J Grad Med Educ 2013;5:613-619.