Following the recent disaster that barrelled through Louisiana, we wanted to gauge how providers in Louisiana feel about their current systems for disaster preparedness. We sent an 8 question survey to 470 Home and Community Based Services and Intermediate Care Facility providers in Louisiana.
Clients rely on support from family or direct support professionals to handle emergency preparation, take the lead, and do the heavy lifting during these events.
Let's dig into the results.
Of the providers that responded, over 90% of providers expressed worry about the effect of natural disasters on their clients and employees.
Over 90% were also worried when asked if their organization was equipped to handle future natural disasters.
It's no secret that Louisiana is impacted quite frequently by natural disasters. Providers' mission is to offer quality care for members of their community. Their promises to clients does not change in the event of a natural disaster. Every DSP vows that they will stay with clients in the event of a disaster. That may mean evacuating or hunkering down, with or without power. Their client loyalty is admirable and selfless, as they all have families of their own. They treat clients like family and positively impact so many lives because of that.
This increases the responsibility of DSPs, and their employers, significantly. They vow to be responsible for their clients' wellbeing when the whole community is in crisis mode - when resources are low, panic is high, and everyone is confused. This is why it is so important that HCBS and ICF providers are equipped with the tools and resources necessary to handle anything thrown their way.
50% of providers reported that communicating with employees was one of the top three challenges they have faced during a natural disaster.
Unfortunately, downed power lines and phone lines are a common effect of natural disasters. 87% of providers reported power outage for some or all employees/clients as one of their top three challenges faced during a disaster. Having adequate connection to internet and phone service is imperative to communicating.
Looking down at your phone to see ½ a service bar or roaming is cause for celebration following a big storm. Although there is not much anyone can do to improve communication when the power is out, once resources are available, people get to work.
Once power is restored, it's difficult to know where to start. So many questions, so much to do. Providers' first priority is connecting with clients and employees. Some may be together, but many are not. They need to gather status updates on everyone's well being and be compassionate while gauging who will be back at work and when. They also have to know which clients are in need of assistance.
Just reading this is probably making most providers break into a cold sweat. Especially because their office spaces are usually out of commission following a storm due to a lack of wifi, damage, or the inability to access areas due to debris and cleanup needs. This results in remote work or other alternative solutions.
When asked how long providers and their teams could work comfortably from home, 65% said they could only work from home for less than one month. 24% said it's not sustainable for them at all.
Don’t panic. There is something HCBS and ICF providers can do to improve their disaster preparedness.
- Adopt a cloud based solution for business management.
Access what you need, when you need it, wherever you choose. Or in the case of a disaster, wherever you can. If a storm damages office spaces, there is the potential it is damaging a lot of company data as well. If programs and softwares live physically on computers in an office, it makes it more vulnerable to being destroyed for obvious reasons. HIPAA compliant, digital solutions are much more common since the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. The need to access company data remotely became important for businesses everywhere, and for direct support providers even more so due to the sheer importance of their service. Not being able to access necessary information to care for clients is not an option. A cloud based business management solution makes it possible to resume business operations anywhere.
- House staff and client data in the same place.
Another way for providers to be better prepared for a disaster is to house employee and client data in the same CRM management system. Organization of information is unmatched in the event of a disaster. As mentioned above, many providers expressed difficulty gathering updates from staff and clients. Being able to record important updates, for both employees and staff, in one place is a game changer for disaster preparedness. And we don’t mean writing everyone’s name and phone number on a piece of paper and going down the list to call. We mean being able to record which employees and clients evacuated, stayed, and who has power; and being able to filter those lists. Streamlined ways to gather and organize this information is imperative to resuming business smoothly following a disaster.
- Host company data on servers in a safe place.
In the case of devastation from a disaster, or even minor damage, hosting data digitally can be a life saver. We have heard horror stories from many providers in Louisiana that went through Hurricane Katrina. For many, everything was destroyed, and all paper and hard drive files were ruined. This means weeks completing payroll manually from scratch, or days calling clients to gather basic information on their plans of care. Host all company data on servers in a secure location is another way to prepare for the unexpected. This goes hand in hand with cloud based software. Some providers have chosen places outside of Louisiana, in the hope they will be less susceptible to being damaged during a disaster. Hosting data on servers out of state may cause confusion when submitting data to LaSRS, so be wary about implementing this until hearing more from SRI. With that being said, hosting company data digitally is much more safe than storing it in a physical location.
Implement smart solutions now to prepare for the unexpected.
Adopting cloud-based business management software solutions means providers are able to access resources even if their offices are affected by any type of disaster. Organizing client and staff information in the same platform allows providers to document important disaster updates in one place, and with some solutions, the ability to filter this information into lists for streamlined communication.
No one can prevent natural disasters from happening, but providers can reduce time spent preparing for one and resuming business following one.
If these tips were helpful to you, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would love to discuss how we can support your systems today, while preparing for the opportunities of the future.