Emergency Preparedness Guidance for Rural Health Clinics (RHCs)
Statutory and regulatory citations for RHCs—section 1861(aa) of the Act and 42 CFR 491.1 through 491.11; Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs)—section 1861(aa) of the Act and 42 CFR 491.1 through 491.11, except 491.3.
The Rural Health Clinic/Federally Qualified Health Center (RHC/FQHC) must comply with all applicable Federal, State, and local emergency preparedness requirements. The RHC/FQHC must establish and maintain an emergency preparedness program that meets the requirements of this section. The emergency preparedness program must include, but not be limited to, the following elements:
The RHC/FQHC must develop and maintain an emergency preparedness plan that must be reviewed and updated at least annually. The plan must do all of the following:
- Be based on and include a documented, facility-based and community-based risk assessment, utilizing an all-hazards approach.
- Include strategies for addressing emergency events identified by the risk assessment.
- Address patient population, including, but not limited to, the type of services the RHC/FQHC has the ability to provide in an emergency; and continuity of operations, including delegations of authority and succession plans.
- Include a process for cooperation and collaboration with local, tribal, regional, State, and Federal emergency preparedness officials' efforts to maintain an integrated response during a disaster or emergency situation, including documentation of the RHC/FQHC's efforts to contact such officials and, when applicable, of its participation in collaborative and cooperative planning efforts.
Policies and procedures
The RHC/FQHC must develop and implement emergency preparedness policies and procedures, based on the emergency plan set forth in paragraph (a) of this section, risk assessment at paragraph (a)(1) of this section, and the communication plan at paragraph (c) of this section. The policies and procedures must be reviewed and updated at least annually. At a minimum, the policies and procedures must address the following:
- Safe evacuation from the RHC/FQHC, which includes appropriate placement of exit signs; staff responsibilities and needs of the patients.
- A means to shelter in place for patients, staff, and volunteers who remain in the facility.
- A system of medical documentation that preserves patient information, protects confidentiality of patient information, and secures and maintains the availability of records.
- The use of volunteers in an emergency or other emergency staffing strategies, including the process and role for integration of State and Federally designated health care professionals to address surge needs during an emergency.
The RHC/FQHC must develop and maintain an emergency preparedness communication plan that complies with Federal, State, and local laws and must be reviewed and updated at least annually. The communication plan must include all of the following:
- Names and contact information for the following:
- Entities providing services under arrangement.
- Patients' physicians.
- Other RHCs/FQHCs.
- Contact information for the following:
- Federal, State, tribal, regional, and local emergency preparedness staff.
- Other sources of assistance.
- Primary and alternate means for communicating with the following:
- RHC/FQHC's staff.
- Federal, State, tribal, regional, and local emergency management agencies.
- A means of providing information about the general condition and location of patients under the facility's care as permitted under 45 CFR 164.510(b)(4).
- A means of providing information about the RHC/FQHC's needs, and its ability to provide assistance, to the authority having jurisdiction or the Incident Command Center, or designee.
Training and testing
The RHC/FQHC must develop and maintain an emergency preparedness training and testing program that is based on the emergency plan set forth in paragraph (a) of this section, risk assessment at paragraph (a)(1) of this section, policies and procedures at paragraph (b) of this section, and the communication plan at paragraph (c) of this section. The training and testing program must be reviewed and updated at least annually.
- Training program. The RHC/FQHC must do all of the following:
- Initial training in emergency preparedness policies and procedures to all new and existing staff, individuals providing services under arrangement, and volunteers, consistent with their expected roles,
- Provide emergency preparedness training at least annually.
- Maintain documentation of the training.
- Demonstrate staff knowledge of emergency procedures.
- Testing. The RHC/FQHC must conduct exercises to test the emergency plan at least annually. The RHC/FQHC must do the following:
- Participate in a full-scale exercise that is community-based or when a community-based exercise is not accessible, an individual, facility-based. If the RHC/FQHC experiences an actual natural or man-made emergency that requires activation of the emergency plan, the RHC/FQHC is exempt from engaging in a community-based or individual, facility-based full-scale exercise for 1 year following the onset of the actual event.
- Conduct an additional exercise that may include, but is not limited to following:
- A second full-scale exercise that is community-based or individual, facility-based.
- A tabletop exercise that includes a group discussion led by a facilitator, using a narrated, clinically-relevant emergency scenario, and a set of problem statements, directed messages, or prepared questions designed to challenge an emergency plan.
- Analyze the RHC/FQHC's response to and maintain documentation of all drills, tabletop exercises, and emergency events, and revise the RHC/FQHC's emergency plan, as needed.
Integrated healthcare systems
If a RHC/FQHC is part of a healthcare system consisting of multiple separately certified healthcare facilities that elects to have a unified and integrated emergency preparedness program, the RHC/FQHC may choose to participate in the healthcare system's coordinated emergency preparedness program. If elected, the unified and integrated emergency preparedness program must do all of the following:
- Demonstrate that each separately certified facility within the system actively participated in the development of the unified and integrated emergency preparedness program.
- Be developed and maintained in a manner that takes into account each separately certified facility's unique circumstances, patient populations, and services offered.
- Demonstrate that each separately certified facility is capable of actively using the unified and integrated emergency preparedness program and is in compliance with the program.
- Include a unified and integrated emergency plan that meets the requirements of paragraphs (a)(2), (3), and (4) of this section. The unified and integrated emergency plan must also be based on and include all of the following:
- A documented community-based risk assessment, utilizing an all-hazards approach.
- A documented individual facility-based risk assessment for each separately certified facility within the health system, utilizing an all-hazards approach.
- Include integrated policies and procedures that meet the requirements set forth in paragraph (b) of this section, a coordinated communication plan, and training and testing programs that meet the requirements of paragraphs (c) and (d) of this section, respectively.