In recognition of National Safety Month’s Week 4: Advancing Your Safety Journey, DCHA would like to highlight a safety initiative that demonstrates a commitment to continuous improvement in order to ensure a safe working environment for staff, patients and the community across all District hospitals. In 2019, DCHA’s Emergency Management Committee (EMC) identified a collective strategy to standardize a series of emergency codes related to a select list of emergency events (natural and human-made) across all member hospitals.
Emergency codes are important announcements to ensure facilities operate in accordance with their mission and to the best of their capabilities. The Department of Homeland Security released a report citing the importance of using standardized plain language codes. The report writes, “The use of plain language (clear text) in emergency management and incident response is a matter of public safety, especially the safety of emergency management/response personnel and those affected by the incident. It is critical that all those involved with an incident know and use commonly established operational structures, terminology, policies and procedures. This will facilitate interoperability across agencies, organizations, jurisdictions and disciplines.” The guidelines for standardized emergency codes have also been promoted by The Joint Commission for events or threats that can inflict harm on hospital staff, patients and visitors.
Leveraging the collective expertise, the EMC reviewed all member hospital codes for a series of emergency events/alerts. The Committee agreed to use a combination of color and plain language following national trends and best practices. It was further determined the minimum requirement for implementation would be to standardize the nomenclature (with a focus on plain language) and definition for the select emergency codes across the hospitals. Each facility would be given the flexibility to designate their color code for the specific emergency as they deemed appropriate.
DCHA hospital leaders see the value in creating uniform systems that enable their staff to be adequately informed during an emergency as well as equipping visitors with adequate information to protect themselves. This was important for the District’s hospitals as many of our staff are employed by multiple hospitals and often work between facilities. The EMC completed a standardization initiative to enhance the emergency preparedness and response efforts for District hospitals’ staff, the patients they serve, and the communities they protect.
As of 2021, EMC has prioritized this initiative as core activity of the Committee to be reviewed annually to ensure the standardized codes are accurate, complete, and relevant to industry best practice (both clinical and operational perspective). The commitment to regularly reviewing the series of emergency codes supports the process for continuous improvement especially when it comes to developing best practices regarding code implementation within each hospital. In addition, DCHA has provided education and technical assistance for other healthcare stakeholders who are seeking support for the implementation of similar initiatives. Those key stakeholders include but are not limited to community health centers, nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
DCHA hospitals remain poised to serve as an industry leader by championing excellence in safety. During the final week of National Safety Month, DCHA is pleased to promote the efforts made by the EMC members as they continue to build sustainable safety programs within their respective hospitals. For more information about the DCHA EMC or if you are interested in learning more about this safety initiative, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.