PACE for Healthcare Emergency Communications Planning

PACE is a methodology developed by the US Military to help build resilient communication plans for organizations that need to ensure communications regardless of the situation.  

PACE is an acronym for Primary, Alternate, Contingency, and Emergency.

  • Primary= the best and intended method of communication between parties.
  • Alternate = common but less-optimal method of accomplishing the task. Often monitored concurrently with primary means.
  • Contingency= method will not be as fast/easy/inexpensive/convenient as the first two methods but is capable of accomplishing the task. Often (but undesirably) the receiver rarely monitors this method.
  • Emergency= method of last resort and typically has significant delays, costs, and/or impacts. Often only monitored when the other means fail.

The PACE plan system is expressed as a list showing the order of communication precedence; primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency.   The plan designates the order in which organizations plan to move through available communications systems until contact can be established.  In the general plan, it is important to understand the order in which you would plan to use various communication systems and the agreed-upon method between groups.

Once an organization has agreed upon the general plan, detailed operational planning must follow. In the detailed plan, you can then designate the radio channel or talk group to be used if using radios, the satellite phone numbers to be called.  When you know what systems will be used the PACE Plan ensures everyone agrees on which systems to monitor and in the correct order as the higher level of communications fail.

Emergency Management and Communications Managers should coordinate the development of PACE plans for the many different functions and departments within your organization to ensure that Incident Command and clinical staff can maintain critical communication links. Plans must reflect the training, equipment status, and true capabilities of the organization. If a clinical team has a disaster plan but team members are untrained, lack the proper equipment or contact information they will not be effective in an emergency.

Departmental PACE plans should be coordinated with Emergency Management and the Communications Team.  It is critical that individual departments nest their plan within the larger Emergency Plan and with the coordination of the organization’s communications team to ensure that the resources are in place to execute the plan and reduce unnecessary duplication of assets.

Developing comprehensive PACE plans will not ensure perfect communications in a disaster, but helps to clear some of the fog and friction found in every emergency situation.

PACE Plan Resources