Winter Storm Season Alert Posted

The state Department of Health (DOH) has posted information on the actions that providers should take to prepare for the upcoming winter weather season. See here.

DOH recommends that all facilities and agencies review their Emergency Response and Evacuation Plans to ensure procedures are up to date and understood by staff and that contact information for all key staff and response partners is current. Providers should be ready to activate these plans when needed.

Providers should review plans for ensuring adequate staffing, including:

  • The use of redundant communications if normal mechanisms are impacted;
  • Necessary notifications and alerts to staff;
  • Adjustment of shifts and management of staffing shortages due to transportation impacts;
  • Securing needed supplies and preparations for staff that remain on site if roadways are not passable; and
  • A process for bringing in and housing additional staff prior to a storm to ensure sufficient coverage during the storm event and recovery period.

During and following a storm, providers experiencing prolonged power outages or other storm impacts should make requests for assistance through their local county Emergency Operations Center (EOC) or should contact their county Office of Emergency Management (OEM) if the EOC is not activated. Those providers located in New York City (NYC) who need services or supplies should contact NYC Emergency Management.

Home care agencies are encouraged to review patient care needs and consider adjustment of visits to ensure that Priority Level 1 patients are visited prior to the start of a forecasted storm and that all patients are reminded of how/who to call for assistance if they lose power or have a medical emergency.

Patients in Priority Level 1 need uninterrupted services (see definitions appended to a Dear Administrator Letter here). In the case of a disaster or emergency, every possible effort must be made to see a Priority Level 1 patient. The patient’s condition is highly unstable and deterioration or inpatient admission is highly probable if the patient is not seen. Examples include patients requiring life-sustaining equipment or medication, those needing highly skilled wound care, and unstable patients with no caregiver or informal support to provide care.

Plans should be made for adjusting staff schedules/prioritizing patient visits in the days immediately following the storm, particularly if travel is still impeded, with a focus on reassigning staff based on proximity to patients to limit travel and reduce staff exposure to hazardous conditions. Agencies should also ensure that staff and their patients have enough supplies to cover a period of at least 24 hours prior to and 72 hours following the start of the storm.

Agencies should be ready to contact staffing services if a large proportion of their regular staff are unable to travel and perform any of their normal visits for a period of time following the storm.

Agencies should also be ready to communicate with their patients during and immediately following the storm to perform checks on their safety and condition of their health. A plan for managing situations where patients refuse to evacuate a hazardous situation should be developed and included in the agency’s emergency response plan.

HCS Access

The Health Commerce System (HCS) is used for critical communications and data sharing during emergencies. Several key response agencies rely on data gathered within several applications accessed on the HCS, which is why it’s important to keep these directories up to date.

Every provider must ensure they have staff with active HCS accounts who are assigned to the appropriate roles in the HCS Communications Directory.  Providers need to repeatedly check their e-mails and phone messages for information about emergencies and be prepared to complete any Health Electronic Response Data System (HERDS) surveys.

Aware Prepare newsletter announces upcoming trainings

In related news, the state has issued its November edition of Aware Prepare, a monthly newsletter with announcements about numerous emergency preparedness training sessions to support you. These include training sessions on some of the requirements outlined above pertaining to HCS procedures, how to locate and complete HERDS surveys, and more. The latest edition of Aware Prepare is posted on HCA’s home care prepare website, which also contains other news and planning resources to support you. The home page is at

For more information, contact Andrew Koski at (518) 810-0662 or; or Alyssa Lovelace at (518) 810-0658 or

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