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Frequently Asked Questions: Emergency Preparedness

Q: Is Vanderbilt University Medical Center open for business during emergency situations?
A: It is the policy of VUMC to maintain essential business services and operations during any emergency situation while providing for the protection of life, health, and safety of all patients, students, faculty, and employees.

Q: What are considered essential business services?
A: Essential business services are evaluated in a disaster-specific scenario but generally include maintaining hospital operations, supporting students in residence, operating research facilities, and providing necessary support and administrative services for these functions.

Q: Who is responsible for maintaining the emergency plans?
A: The Medical Center Emergency Operations Plan require that all departments/units develop emergency plans for their areas.

Q: What are contingency plans?
A: Contingency plans identify the employees, resources and supplies needed to maintain essential business services.

Q: Who defines which employees are essential?
A: All employees have key roles at VUMC. However, managers are responsible for determining employee roles and responsibilities during an emergency to maintain operations. Communication of expectations and cross training for any new responsibilities assigned should be provided in advance.

Q: Are employees required to work during an emergency situation?
A: Yes. Employees are required to report to work during emergency situations. Managers may designate employees to report to work in the home department, assign employees to report to other departments or to the labor pool.

Q: Who approves the closing of a unit or department during an emergency?
A: When a situation exists that suggests to an authorized manager that a department or unit should be closed, the decision to close must be approved by the leadership team in the Emergency Operations Center.

Q: If an employee’s department closes or suspends services and the employee is not reassigned to another department or deployed to the labor pool, how will the time away from work be addressed?
A: Departments/Units may suspend services or close with approval from the Emergency Operations Center. Employees may be assigned to the Emergency Operations Center Labor Pool as needed. If a department chooses to operate with a "skeletal staff" or is approved to close, the following time reporting options are available:

  • Non-exempt employees. Employees may use their accrued time off banks to supplement any non-worked hours to complete their schedule, or;
  • Exempt employees. Exempt employees affected by departmental or service closures will be handled in accordance with applicable law and regulations.

Upon receiving notification that departments/unit services previously closed have resumed services, assigned employees are expected to be available to report to work as scheduled.

Q: What happens if an employee does not have accrued time off banks available for use during an emergency situation?
A: If there are no accrued time off banks available for non-exempt employees, the time away from work will be without pay.

Q: When a department or unit that was previously closed due to a pandemic or emergency situation reopens, how will employees be notified to return to work?
A: Employees are responsible for providing current contact information (home phone number, cell number, etc.) to their manager to be notified of reopening or the need to report to work. When the decision has been made to call in employees, various methods of communication such as phone, text messaging, email, etc. may be utilized to notify employees to return to work.

Q: What happens if an employee who is instructed to report to work fails to do so?
A: Employees are required to have a viable family emergency plan in place that would allow them to report to work during a pandemic or other emergency situation. For more information on family emergency plans go to the Employee Family Plan Checklist or the Emergency Preparedness website. Managers should consult with Human Resources for the appropriate application of HR policies for employees who do not report to work.

Q: Should I report to work if I think I have symptoms of the flu (i.e. fever, runny nose cough, etc.)?
A: For guidance about flu exposure or treatment, use the Occupational Health Flu Tool. You provide the information and OHC will guide you as to whether or not it is appropriate to report to work. Please be advised that your supervisor will more than likely inquire as to whether or not you have utilized the flu tool if your absence is related to the flu.

Q: Will I have the option to work from home if my child’s school is closed because of the flu pandemic?
A: Employees should not anticipate that working from home will be an option. Instead, employees are expected to plan and prepare to continue reporting to work by developing a family disaster plan to address matters such as childcare. While there are some exceptions for working from home, determining what duties can be performed offsite must be coordinated and communicated in advance by the manager.


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