2016 Healthcare Regulation Changes Prepare Facilities for Emergencies

In 2016, the Agency for Healthcare Administration (ACHA) will adopt the 2012 editions of NFPA 99 Healthcare Facilities Code and NFPA 101 Life Safety Code. This change expands on current emergency readiness efforts and applies to any facility that receives Medicare and Medicaid funds, not just hospitals, facilities that have been the focus in the past.

Dan Wicker of ACHA’s Life Safety Committee says, “ACHA’s adoption of the 2012 editions of NFPA 99 and 101 will bring greater use of current technology and greater flexibility in the maintenance and inspection for life safety equipment.”

The new rules point healthcare facilities to Federal Registration Vol. 78, No. 246, a document that provides guidance to help ensure healthcare systems are ready in case of emergency.

Notably, the regulations around emergency preparation will now better match the needs of healthcare systems during terrorist events, including active shooters, and natural disasters such as wildfires and hurricanes.

Because healthcare facilities provide essential services, they must continue to operate during a disaster or emergency. The 2016 changes provide specific language that help healthcare facilities prepare for and operate during a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or pandemic. It also advises on a recovery plan so operations can return to normal post-disaster.

There are four areas of emergency preparedness compliance that will be affected in 2016.


The topics listed below are the main areas healthcare facilities should assess for improvement.

  •  Risk Assessment and Planning
  • Facilities will need to complete assessments of possible hazards that could affect their ability to provide care to residents, how likely they are to happen, and what effect they could have on operations.

  • Policies and Procedures 
  • Based on the assessment noted above, a facility will need to publish policies and procedures surrounding possible hazards and diminished operations.

  • Communication Plan 
  • New to long-term care is the annual testing of a facility’s ability to communicate and the quality of communications with local, state, and federal aid agencies, such as the Department of Health, state emergency aid teams, local hospitals, fire and rescue, police, etc.

  • Training and Testing 

Facilities will be required to conduct and document practice drills twice a year to ensure effectiveness. The resulting documents will be reviewed by ACHA during CMS inspections.

Keep in mind the new regulations don’t outline specific tasks or procedures for each event or type of disaster. Instead, they rely on lessons from previous events and identify tools that would allow a facility to continue operations in the event of an emergency.

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