MRS Homecare VP offers tips to strengthen your Emergency Management Plan

Posted on in Membership

Written by: Mike McGill, VGM Marketing

Benjamin Franklin was the first to say that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Franklin’s axiom is one that MRS Homecare’s Vice President, Tyler Riddle, often uses when he explains the importance of having a well-developed and practiced emergency preparedness plan.

MRS Homecare is a VGM Member and family-owned and operated business that has been serving residents of Southern Georgia for 36 years. Like hundreds of other HMEs, they adhere to the policies required for ACHC accreditation – including having an emergency preparedness plan.

In 2007, MRS Homecare’s plan would be tested when a tornado ripped through Americus, Georgia, causing significant property damage, downed power lines and obstructed roads. “Our team was faced with a lot of challenges that day,” said Riddle. “All of us came together to help in Americus but we realized how woefully unprepared we were and that our emergency management plan needed to be refined so we would be ready if and when something similar crossed our path.”

Riddle has dedicated time to not only refine the MRS Homecare’s emergency management plan, but has truly embraced the value of having a team that is well-prepared to handle what Mother Nature or some other force sends their way.

Here are five tips from Tyler to help strengthen your emergency preparedness plan.

Rely on what your staff already knows

Draw from the experience of your staff to help you refine your plan. Our purchasing manager is an active duty volunteer fire fighter so he is trained to handle emergency situations that can impact our region. We also have staff members who are military. We utilize their expertise to further strengthen our plan.

Implement annual preparedness drills

In 2007, we were woefully unprepared. Today our staff are used to having annual preparedness drills. Like anything in life, the more you practice the more you will improve. The same is true for implementing an emergency plan. Each drill improves our readiness for disasters that can impact the communities we serve.

Communicate early and often

In the case of Hurricane Hermine and Matthew, we had time to prepare. I held a conference call with all locations stressing first that this is not a drill and that if something happens, be prepared for an influx of evacuees from Florida. We want to make sure everyone has adequate stock to accommodate folks, vans are full of fuel, and reinforce the importance of tracking equipment since multiple stores may be needed to help with relief. As part of the plan, I also activated our technicians into 24-hour on call mode. 

In regards to our customers, our first move is to take to social media. We posted on Facebook that we were activating our emergency management plan. We then called our O2 and vent customers to make sure they had an 8-hour backup. We also provide them with steps to take in the event that they lose power for an extended period.

This MRS Homecare Facebook post was shared 53 times and organically reached more than 55,000 people.

Establish partnerships with emergency responders  

Maintaining close relationships with EMA, Red Cross, health systems and city entities can greatly help you prepare for emergency situations. Especially when you have time to plan for a natural disaster such as a hurricane or flood. Ask them how they want you to operate? Do we defer to you? It opens up the conversation about how you can fit in to relief efforts. For Hurricane Matthew, our city officials reached out to me when they were transferring 70 residents and needed 30 hospital beds to accommodate the evacuees. Because of our emergency protocols we were able to accommodate the influx and relief requests.

Evaluate the response 

It is extremely important to evaluate how your team responded to the emergency. Remind your staff to try and make note of instances where there’s room for improvement. As soon as your work environment gets back to normal, hold a follow up call or meeting so staff can share their findings. Then document them and refine your plan if needed.

Ironically enough, I was typing up how we handled Hurricane Hermine when my dad peeked in and said something is going to happen. Sure enough, Matthew was on its way, but fortunately my team at MRS Homecare was prepared to step into action.