“A laundry service is at a standstill — a key piece of processing equipment is out of commission, or a natural disaster has left the immediate area without power. What sort of contingency plan should a manager have in place to make certain his customers continue to receive clean goods in a timely manner?”Consulting: Tom Mara, Victor Kramer Co., Oceanport, N.J.
Disaster and emergency planning are critically important activities at any establishment where significant numbers of people are gathered, to protect their lives and health and to mitigate the effects of service interruptions.
In the case of the healthcare industry, and laundries in particular, these objectives merge because any extraordinary service interruption can contribute to a health or life safety risk.
Hence, laundry operators and their customers must work together to create preparedness plans for use at both ends of the logistics chain, so they can respond to a disaster cooperatively and effectively.
During a recent major equipment replacement project in Michigan, my consultants helped a shared healthcare services provider organize both a temporary services agreement with another large hospital laundry and an emergency backup services agreement in case of unexpected complication.
In addition, key personnel at affected hospitals were kept regularly informed of the project’s schedule and any anticipated service irregularities, and they received regular progress reports to foster assuredness.
Key elements of an emergency services plan for the participating laundries include:Mutuality
A single agreement should protect both laundries. Each should promise to serve the other, or else a small group of laundries (more than two) can agree to provide mutual emergency services.Location
Laundries participating in a mutual emergency services agreement should be close enough so that the assurance of emergency service is reasonable, but not so close that one or more of the participants could be affected by the same disaster or emergency. An 8-10-hour, one-way truck trip is not too far.Review
The parties or their proxies to an emergency services agreement should meet at least once a year to review its service provisions, modify them as needed and execute the renewal. The document must not be allowed to become stale.Customer Participation
The laundry should help its customers devise an emergency services plan to be implemented at their places of business. The plan should be reviewed, revised and in-serviced annually.
Customers should expect to curtail the use of clean linen in case of an interruption by:
- Postponing elective surgeries.
- Temporarily substituting reusable textile items with disposables (and managing a supply of such products for that purpose).
- Rotating top sheets to the bottom, or changing sheets and pillowcases every other day.
- Asking employees to launder their uniforms at home.
The agreement should provide for all aspects of the service, including:
- Schedules and turnaround times.
- Source of temporary labor (the host or the purchaser).
- Prices and surcharges.
- Contact names and phone numbers.
- Response time.
- Vehicles and rolling stock.
- Finishing, packaging and quality standards.
- Terms of payment, and so on.
In addition to an emergency services agreement, the laundry operator should consider:
Installation of an electrical generator, a wastewater reclamation system (to reduce water consumption) and a freshwater cistern.
- Dual fuel systems for its boilers and/or tumblers.
- An agreement with one or more local rental agencies to provide vehicles at times of emergency.
- A minimum one-day supply of new linen in the warehouse.
- A snowplow that can be fitted to one of the laundry’s trucks, or even a chainsaw to cut away fallen trees that may block plant access.
- Hook-ups for emergency rented boiler, compressed air and electrical generating systems, and trucked potable water.
Healthcare Laundering: Bob Pfeifer, Sodexo Laundry Services, Lansing, Mich.
Generally speaking, one piece of equipment should not result in a large service disruption, unless, of course, you are a one-boiler, one-tunnel, or one-ironer plant. That is where a true disaster plan would come into play.
When talking about only a key piece of equipment, a laundry should have backup-plan scenarios in place for continued operations that mainly consider the length of time that the equipment will be offline.
With a single piece of equipment, we’re talking about temporary changes to select employees or department shift times and possible overtime.
For a true emergency, where a disaster plan would be enacted, your plan should include an:Introduction — Statement(s) that outlines what the plan entails and gives a general overview of what the purpose and intent are.List of Contacts — For both the clients and the plant personnel who will be communicating and coordinating service during the emergency period.Support Services — A listing of backup service providers your facility could utilize throughout the emergency.Emergency Staffing — Listing of teams responsible for particular facets of the operation, such as staffing, engineering, transportation, and customer communications. It is imperative that responsibilities be shared by the executive management team, and that regular meetings take place throughout the emergency to continuously update and coordinate services.Emergency Action Plans — There is a twofold need:
- When the disaster is localized but does not directly interrupt operations. Concerns such as road closures, facility restraints in delivery, and alterations to timeliness of delivery due to these two issues must be identified and communicated throughout the laundry facility and to your customers.
- In the case where the emergency originates at the laundry processing facility, you must evaluate the situation for expected duration of outage, contact backup facilities for service levels and timelines, and communicate these things to your clients.
In Event of Inclement Weather — Additional parts would focus on inclement weather and include such things as supply orders and storage, stock of batteries, flashlights, fuel and service of transportation equipment and other supplies utilized by the facility.Conservation Activities – It’s important that each facility serviced by the laundry has and understands its emergency usage policy to minimize the strain on the laundry during this difficult time.
While not all-encompassing, a prioritized disaster plan will help to ensure your customers continue to receive adequate supplies during the emergency.Click here for Part 2.Click here for Part 3.