The intensity and frequency of major natural disasters is increasing, from 100 per year in the 1970s to more than 500 per year today, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

From hurricanes to fires and floods, ice storms and earthquakes, natural disasters are on the rise, and in no field is it more critical to be prepared than healthcare. Healthcare facilities have much to lose if they are down for even a short time. They have patients to protect, keep safe and possibly move, and new ones to care for as a result of the disaster. They also have facilities and support systems to maintain and keep running 24/7, and critical records that must be accessible at all times. A painful case in point is the experience of the University of Texas Medical Branch during Hurricane Ike. According to FEMA’s Hurricane Ike Impact Report, the facility lost $276 million in revenue after Hurricane Ike as a result of closure of the hospital’s facilities and the resulting downtime of business operations.

While major disasters are a critical risk, the majority of business interruptions are caused by unforeseen circumstances – singular events that can’t be predicted, such as fires, power outages, and server failures. One facility in Virginia’s Clarion Health System, CRCH, was closed for 16 days as the result of a fire. This event was completely unpredictable; yet still a major disaster for the impacted organization. For a hospital, being down for even one day can result in a financial loss of millions of dollars. Conversely, the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that every dollar invested in disaster preparedness yields savings of $4–$11 in disaster response, relief and recovery.

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