The holidays are supposed to be a time of joyous celebration with family, friends and loved ones. However, no amount of holiday cheer can prepare your facility for the amount of crises that can arise during the season.

stressed-out-employee-at-christmas-(1).jpgAccording to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were six fatalities and an estimated 14,000 treated ER injuries due to holiday decorations in 2015.

The ability to respond and resolve these holiday crises with minimal loss – to people, property, productivity and profits – isn’t something healthcare facilities can afford to skimp on or put off. Don’t let decking the halls ruin your facility’s holiday season. Below are eight practical tips for emergency preparedness and response specific to healthcare environments during the holiday season.
  1. Organize a unified response: In times of disaster, a community must band together to overcome anything that blows their way. In November and December, light snow flurries can quickly turn into a hazardous blizzard. It’s important to preemptively collaborate with other healthcare facilities around the area so you can offer a unified response to those in need during a severe winter storm.


  1. Ensure adequate training: Training for an unexpected crisis sounds a bit like an oxymoron. Collaboration with local community resources such as ambulance services and emergency responders will help to clarify their role and align expectations during training exercises. During a crisis, it’s all hands on deck and everyone should be prepared to weather the storm.
  2. Establish a communications infrastructure: No matter the holiday issue, whether it’s an influx of flu patients or decorations too close to the heater, your ability to respond effectively requires clear, accurate and rapid communications with all affected audiences.To make that possible, your organization should create an emergency communications infrastructure at both internal and external levels. Layer communication using various formats and vehicles – radios, mass notification systems, digital singage, PA and more.
  3. Cover technology fail-safes: If equipment, supplies or other tools are disrupted by a winter disaster, your facility should identify and understand the asset needs to continue operations. Not everything will go your way, especially with technology, so ensure you are one step ahead.
  4. Prepare essential and alternate assets: You’ll want to identify the hardware, software, space and other resources each area of your facility requires to remain operational. It’s wise to keep these free and clear of holiday decorations, and to develop alternative solutions in case anything goes awry.
  5. Ensure executive leaders understand their role: Providing executive leaders with safety committee meeting minutes is a good start to keeping them informed. It is a great way to give everyone a sense of what’s happening with patient safety, especially due to the sheer amount of patients entering and exiting the ER during the season.
  6. Test your emergency plan often: Once your emergency plan is established, follow, maintain, test and train often, and reassess regularly. “Winging it” isn’t an option! Preparation takes time. The more you continue to test your plan, the more qualified your facility will be to handle seasonal hazards effectively.  
  7. Assemble a team of experts: Ideally, this team of experts should have experience responding to real-life crises – not just theoretical training. No amount of training can make up for a lack of first-hand experience in solving crises. Assemble those who have witnessed the holiday hospitalization surge, or who have faced a blizzard while still maintaining a hospital’s systems.
No matter the holiday hazard, it is crucial that healthcare professionals are prepared for whatever comes their way.