Evacuation insurance can address some disasters

When disaster strikes, deciding whether to flee or stick it out can be difficult even for individuals, but it is a particularly vexing problem for health care providers. In addition to the sheer logistical complexity, evacuating a hospital brings the risk of injury to patients, the associated liability, and major expenses.

Some of those problems can be mitigated with evacuation insurance, suggests Kristin D. McMahon, JD, chief claims officer with IronHealth, a hospital insurer in Simsbury, CT. IronHealth is one company offering its insureds the option to purchase "evacuation expense coverage." This coverage is intended to defray the transportation and lodging expenses incurred by the health care facility once it has made the determination to remove the majority of its patients as a result of any natural or man-made occurrence that, in the reasonable judgment of the insured's management, causes or could potentially cause such facility to be unsafe for such patients.

McMahon advises risk managers to seek evacuation coverage that pays even if the anticipated disaster never materializes. With some policies, there must be damage to the property to trigger coverage of the evacuation, she explains. If the hospital evacuates because flooding is feared, but the flood never comes, for instance, some policies will not pay. Instead, McMahon advises shopping for a policy that will cover the evacuation costs if the management decides that it is prudent to evacuate at least half of the patients.

About 61% of IronHealth's hospital professional liability policies include the evacuation coverage, but 98% of nursing homes include the option in their coverage, she says.

Sources

For more information on Joint Commission standards regarding emergency preparedness, contact:

• Jerry Gervais, CHFM, CHSP, BSME, Associate Director Engineer, The Joint Commission, Oakbrook Terrace, IL. Web site: www.jointcommission.org.