Tacoma-Pierce County Alternate Care Facilities Planning

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, which provides public health oversight in the second most populated county in Washington State, contacted BCFS EMD to look at evaluating and strengthening its medical response capabilities. BCFS EMD began by reviewing the jurisdiction’s existing Alternate Care Facilities (ACFs) plans, the City of Tacoma and Pierce County Emergency Operations Plans, and other pertinent documents related to equipment and supply capabilities and capacities for ACF planning.

ACFs, also referred to as Alternate Care Sites, enhance states’ ability to respond to emergencies by pre-identifying sites before disaster strikes. Such locations can serve as a medical surge capacity for local hospitals, medical shelters, primary triage points, designated community-focused care clinics, or points of distribution for medications or vaccinations during a public health emergency. Ultimately, building ACF capacity aims to prevent local healthcare systems from being overwhelmed with demand for services during disaster.

BCFS EMD's ACF subject matter experts conducted a thorough review of demographic information, including the size of at-risk populations to assess functional needs and access concerns, and accessible resources in order to develop a gap analysis. This strategic document provided an analysis of current capabilities, identified gaps in the planning and response process, and made set forth a roadmap for Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department to address and fill unmet needs before the next emergency struck.

BCFS EMD also provided a Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP)-compliant exercise plan related to ACFS, and developed a workshop with a tabletop exercise, including an After Action Report. Development of the guidance document and workshop was based on best practice models, conformance with federal and regulatory regulations, and current national recommendations from quality research agencies.