When a disaster hits a community, there is not a more vulnerable population than patients in healthcare facilities who, without choice, rely entirely on their healthcare providers for their personal and medical needs. While the facility may offer premier care to its patients, its healthcare workers may or may not know how to properly care for their patients during an emergency situation such as a natural or man-made disaster. Shouldn’t the individuals responsible for patients’ care, also be responsible for their safety during an emergency?

Until now, the majority of healthcare emergency preparedness programs have been instituted by healthcare facilities that provide emergency medical care (i.e. hospitals). Other smaller types of providers such as long-term care facilities, skilled nursing facilities, ambulatory surgical centers, and community mental health centers have not been required to develop an emergency management plan.

As of September 2016, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has mandated that all healthcare providers receiving Medicare and Medicaid funds, have a robust disaster plan in place to ensure that the needs of patients, residents, and clients are met, during and after an emergency situation.

“This final rule establishes national emergency preparedness requirements for Medicare- and Medicaid-participating providers and suppliers to plan adequately for both natural and man-made disasters, and coordinate with federal, state, tribal, regional, and local emergency preparedness systems. It will also assist providers and suppliers to adequately prepare to meet the needs of patients, residents, clients, and participants during disasters and emergency situations. Despite some variations, our regulations will provide consistent emergency preparedness requirements, enhance patient safety during emergencies for persons served by Medicare- and Medicaid-participating facilities, and establish a more coordinated and defined response to natural and man-made disasters," (Federal Register, Vol. 81, No. 180, Friday, September 16, 2016 -Rules and Regulations).

With the new rule, CMS will not only require healthcare providers to meet certain planning and exercise requirements, but they also “encourage providers and suppliers to coordinate their preparedness efforts within their own communities and states as well as across state lines, as necessary, to achieve their goals," (Federal Register, Vol. 81, No. 180, Friday, September 16, 2016 -Rules and Regulations).

“The fact is, for every $1 a hospital spends in preparedness – they save an estimated $4 in response,” (IAEM Bulletin, July 2017). While it may appear to be daunting to take the first step towards emergency preparedness planning, our subject matter experts at VPC can provide assistance to small and medium-sized healthcare facilities to be better prepared to face, and recover from, natural and man-made disasters.

VPC offers expertise in all phases of emergency management, including preparedness, mitigation, and recovery. Additionally, we provide planning, public outreach, stakeholder engagement, and custom technology solutions to assist communities and healthcare organizations to reduce their risk, protect people, secure physical assets and improve their economic well-being. Our related services include but are not limited to: Critical infrastructure assessments, vulnerability and risk assessments, emergency operations planning, and continuity of operations planning. Contact us today to discuss how VPC can help your healthcare organization can be better prepared during an emergency.

VPC was selected by the Historic Preservation Commission of Talbot County, Maryland, to develop a hazard mitigation strategy that comprehensively assesses the flood vulnerability of historic resources in four of Talbot County’s villages: Tilghman, Neavitt, Newcomb, and Royal Oak. VPC is working closely with the County and the Maryland Historical Trust on this Plan, to ensure any actions taken to protect these cultural resources from flood waters do not endanger the buildings eligibility for listing on the State or National Historic Registries.

VPC identified 25 representative historic properties for the villages that are at high risk to flooding based on the 100 and 500-year storm flooding occurrences, and how they will be affected by projected sea level changes. These Historic properties include homes or residences of various building types (Cape Cod, Bungalow, etc.), commercial buildings such as a local market, a historic town hall, and a small rural church.

For each type of property, VPC developed mitigation actions that not only address current flooding risks, but also protect the buildings from future sea level rise in the years 2050 and 2100. The mitigation strategy contains actions as simple as planting trees and vegetation, to more complex actions such as floodproofing crawlspaces, or relocating a building.

Historically, cultural resources have not been given the consideration in hazard mitigation plans that they both need and deserve. VPC is proud to lead this project, which highlights the value these historic resources contribute to the County, as well as the importance of maintaining their cultural integrity while protecting them from natural hazards.

VPC understands the importance of preserving such historical places and remains dedicated to helping cities, counties, states and agencies protect their valued historic and cultural resources.

Vision Planning and Consulting (VPC) was awarded the contract by the Pennsylvania Historic Museum Commission (PHMC) to develop a Hazard Vulnerability Assessment, with special attention to flooding related hazards, for historical properties and resources. This project was PHMC’s Phase 2: Historic Property Vulnerability Assessment, Hazard Mitigation Strategy Development, and Plan Integration for four counties in the Commonwealth: Bedford County, Cameron County, Monroe County, and Philadelphia.

Flooding is Pennsylvania’s most common and highest ranked natural hazard, thereby making the protection of historic properties and cultural resources in the floodplain, a high priority for the PHMC. In the past, historic properties have not been given the prominence they both need and deserve. Additionally, these properties have not been taken into consideration while developing vulnerability assessments in local hazard mitigation plans. Consequently, hazard mitigation plans typically do not contain specific mitigation actions to help reduce risk to these historic or cultural resources.

Phase II primarily focuses on reducing risk to these historic places from flood hazards, including riverine flooding, as well as tidal-related inundation resulting from tropical storm surge and sea level rise, which primarily affects Philadelphia. While the focus is on flooding, VPC will also identify mitigation actions for other hazards that threaten the built environment in these four counties. Mitigation actions related to winter storms, hurricane/tropical storms and nor’easters will be developed, to augment flood mitigation actions.

Phase II actions will be based on the Phase 1 inventory, which identified historic properties (including those that are listed in the National or Pennsylvania Registers) located in the 100-year floodplains, as well as any archaeological sites. These structures will be evaluated to identify character-defining features, as well as any rare, unique, or nationally significant properties, that may warrant special protection or consideration.

VPC’s goal is to garner and incorporate as much public participation and input as possible during the project lifecycle. VPC recognizes the importance of resident, public, and stakeholder participation in the hazard mitigation process and has developed a robust Public Engagement Strategy that will encourage an ongoing two-way dialogue between PHMC and the communities. After all, no one knows these communities better than the locals, so their involvement is vital to the success of the project.

For more information on VPC’s hazard mitigation process, or how we can help you and your organization, contact us. To learn more about PHMC’s projects, click here.

As part of her volunteer efforts with Leadership Howard County, Deepa Srinivasan spent a fun afternoon with Leadership U students at the Bain Senior Center. The Leadership U class of 2017 comprises 50 students from Howard County’s public, private, and home schools. The students toured the Bain Senior Center, learned about the programs and amenities offered, and listened to a presentation on mental illness by NAMI, which resulted in an engaging discussion.

Leadership U is a program that empowers rising high school juniors to learn by doing. Students work in teams to discuss, reflect upon, and develop solutions for problems that affect them and their peers in the community. They also develop mentoring relationships with adult community leaders, learn about Howard County’s government, businesses and services, and hone their presentation skills.” A truly enriching experience that brings awareness to our youth as it prepares them for the lives ahead of them” says Deepa Srinivasan.

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