Feds call on hospitals to review disaster plans after Paris attacks

The horrifying attacks on restaurants, clubs and cafés in Paris last week have resulted in a call by U.S. federal agencies for healthcare providers and hospitals to review their disaster plans and to exercise "enhanced vigilance" in the days ahead.

The Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Health and Human Services urged healthcare providers this week to "review and exercise their security plans" in the wake of the attacks.

The notice urged healthcare organizations to:

  • Review security plans and conduct drills that incorporate scenarios based on tactics recently used
  • Review active shooter, suspicious activity reporting, and counter-IED preparedness in training and awareness initiatives and in organizational safety briefings
  • Ensure proper functioning of emergency communications equipment and conduct regular tests

In Friday's attacks, Paris hospitals instituted what is known as the "white plan," a coordinated national response to the emergency in which healthcare personnel were called in to work all over the city, ambulances were mobilized, and beds readied in all of Paris' hospitals, according to Stat.  

But even before emergency personnel knew the full extent of the disaster, preparations were being made to assist the dying and wounded, according to Medscape. First responders set up mobile triage units at the scenes of the attacks in order to treat minor injuries and avoid over-burdening hospitals. 

But earlier that day Paris officials conducted a drill of its emergency personnel featuring a simulated terror attack in multiple locations. The timing was not an extraordinary coincidence, but rather a measure of how rigorously the city has prepared itself for just such an emergency, Medscape noted.

And although French physicians were in the midst of a strike in protest of new healthcare legislation, they immediately suspended the strike when it became clear that an attack was underway, according to a second Medscape article

The U.S. government's call for hospitals and healthcare providers to review and update emergency protocols is something that all organizations should do throughout the year. Every department in a healthcare institution has a role to play in disaster preparedness, from human resources and IT services to medical records, security and clinical staff.

To learn more:
- read the federal bulletin (.pdf)
- here's the first and second Medscape articles
- check out the coverage by Stat

Related articles:
Disaster planning and response: How hospital IT teams can maintain continuity amid chaos
Disaster plans are a moving target: 4 areas to update
Hospitals push back against proposed disaster plan regs