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Weathering Disasters: The Human Factor

Weathering Disasters In a previous post, on crisis management, we looked at natural disaster like earthquakes, blizzards, and hurricanes. In this post, we’ll delve into human-generated disasters.

First, some good news: Since the 1990s, the number of people killed in US workplace violence incidents has fallen significantly. This suggests that training, awareness, and new evacuation and police protocols are making a difference.

Some of the processes for dealing with natural disasters, such as conducting readiness assessments and developing contingency plans, also apply to deliberate acts that lead to crises. However, man-made events have some distinct characteristics as well. In most cases, they start and end much faster than natural disasters, and the destruction is often targeted.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, human-caused disasters include accidents such as mine explosions and structure collapses, as well as deliberate events such as active shooter situations, arson, and computer hacks. The International Labour Office defines these disasters as non-natural, technological and purposeful events perpetuated by people.

Here are some steps to safeguard your practice from human factors:

  • The National Fire Protection Association requires that workplaces, healthcare facilities, educational institutions, and other occupancies provide evacuation/relocation plan information and routinely schedule and hold drills when practicable.
  • Have a plan for leaving the premises quickly in situations where congregating in designated assembly areas may not be safe.
  • Make sure emergency contact information includes ways to contact employees, and possibly patients, if phone lines are down.
  • Prioritize functions that must be taken care of as soon as possible during and after a disaster.
  • If possible, identify and prepare a site where you can quickly set up and run your practice.

READYAmerica lists a number of natural and man-made hazards and gives tips on how to deal with them at its website, Do what works for your practice, WebMD advises. There is much information available about handling crises, but some of it may not apply to your situation.
Follow your instinct—is an employee having a bad day, or is it something more? Identifying a potential threat isn’t always easy. Some of the behavioral warning signs that a person might be on the verge of inflicting harm are common emotions, and most employees exhibit them on occasion.

It’s a good idea to research workplace violence prevention programs. OSHA and other organizations provide information about implementing measures to prevent workplace violence.

Preparing for crisis situations is difficult, but it’s necessary and can save lives if a worst-case scenario comes to pass. Most physicians and patients won’t experience a natural or human-caused disaster in their lifetimes, but preparedness is the best way to guard against potential harm to your employees and patients.

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