Every year, the United States will see roughly a thousand tornadoes, most of them falling during the hot summer months as the swirling winds and rising heat create dangerous vortexes. For hospital administrators, tornadoes present a unique challenge. In addition to a spike in acute injuries, hospital operations will potentially be disrupted by evacuations, power outages, infrastructure damage, road closures, and other ancillary effects. To best prepare their facilities for the threat of tornadoes, hospital administrators should work with a supply chain partner with the data and experience to handle any adverse situation.
Supply chain considerations during tornado season
The primary priority of a hospital’s staff during a disaster is patient care. Supply chain concerns tend to take a backseat until supplies run low. At that point, it may be too late to replenish supplies quickly, especially if local infrastructure is damaged in a storm. Supply chain preparedness should be a top priority for any hospital administrator to ensure that patient care can be kept at a high standard.
The importance of an experienced supply partner
With the ongoing supply chain problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, margins are already thin. Some medical supplies are still in high demand, and infrastructure hasn’t completely bounced back to pre-pandemic levels. It’s more important than ever to plan ahead for what your hospital might need.
One of the most useful tools at our disposal is the data from previous disasters in similar facilities and similar geographical areas. By collecting data from all over the country, hospital administrators and suppliers can better anticipate which supplies will be needed and when.
In 2017, when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, TRIOSE was heavily involved in helping Houston hospitals to both prepare for the storm and maintain their standard of patient care throughout the worst weather. This effort involves both careful planning and adaptability.
Many hospitals in hurricane-stricken regions have flood doors that can be closed to keep water out, but when those doors are closed, supplies can no longer enter or leave the hospital. In anticipation of significant flooding, administrators will order extra supplies, but we don’t recommend stockpiling as such. With the help of careful data collection, a good supply chain partner can help ensure your hospital can receive exactly what you need without wasting resources on unnecessary extra supplies or being caught short during a weather event.
Once a storm hits, adaptability is crucial. It’s difficult to anticipate exactly what kinds of injuries and illnesses will result from a storm, and the supplies needed to provide adequate care will vary depending on the nature of care required. In an unpredictable situation like this, it’s essential to work with a supply chain partner who can help source and deliver the supplies you need.
Choosing the right carriers for your hospital
One consideration that many administrators might not think of is the specific carriers that will operate in storm conditions. Carriers in different zip codes will have different transportation options at their disposal and different policies for when those carriers can operate. Some won’t operate in storm conditions at all out of concern for the safety of their drivers, while others will only operate smaller vehicles that may not be able to carry enough supplies to replenish what a hospital needs. In any case, keeping your hospital well-stocked in bad weather may not be as simple as picking up the phone.
Administrators will also need to keep in mind that different supplies need different treatment. During the initial rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines, which required strict refrigeration practices, many carriers found that they didn’t have the means to store or transport large quantities of refrigerated goods. Finding a carrier that can handle sensitive medical supplies and equipment is crucial to keeping your hospital prepared.
An experienced supply chain partner like TRIOSE can take on the difficult work of finding carriers who are capable of moving the right supplies, in the right quantities and under the right conditions, even in inclement weather.
Advice for hospitals during tornado season
The most important thing that hospital administration can do to prepare is to plan ahead. Leave the daily job of patient care to the doctors and look at the bigger picture, including supply lines, vendors, and carriers. Try to think about contingencies that might come up in a disaster:
- If nearby roads are blocked, are there other carriers who can get us supplies faster?
- How long can we go without a resupply?
- How much extra capacity can we hold?
- What do we do in the event that we can’t get more supplies?
- Do we have the means to move high-risk patients to other facilities?
- Which vendors will still deliver to us in storm conditions?
Assess your disaster readiness, including both your capabilities and needs and put protocols and procedures in place. Find effective partners who can help you navigate the intricacies of keeping your supply lines running. Hopefully, you won’t need to use these plans anytime soon, but if the worst should happen, you’ll be as ready as you can be.