Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast last fall. A series of deadly tornados in Oklahoma this spring. Massive wild fires all over the West last summer and again this year. When natural disasters are in the news our hearts break when we see the devastation and hear about people being injured and killed and losing their homes, belongings, and pets. In the event that you’re suddenly faced with a fire, hurricane, flood, tornado, earthquake, other natural catastrophe, or a terrorist attack, do you have a plan and procedure in place for your practice? If not, now’s the time to create one. Here are 15 questions to consider and address when putting together your plan.
- What are the most likely types of events to occur in our location?
- How much advance warning do we usually have in the case of natural disasters that happen here (i.e., hurricane – days; tornado – minutes; earthquake – none)?
- If a disaster occurs during office hours, what is our immediate plan to protect the physical safety of patients and staff?
- How will we communicate before, during, and immediately following a disaster, both among staff and with patients if a disaster occurs (a) during business hours; and (b) after hours?
- What do we need to have on hand in the office to be prepared for or wait out the aftermath of a disaster?
- Where are emergency contact numbers for first responders located within the office?
- Do we have a building evacuation plan that is clearly posted in the office?
- Does everyone in the office know where and how to turn off the water, gas, and power if that becomes necessary?
- How would we secure the premises in the event of a disaster to prevent looting and other untoward activities?
- How likely is it that our providers would be called out to respond during an emergency?
- What special skills do our providers and staff members have that would be helpful during a disaster?
- How often should we conduct internal drills or “dry runs” to test how we would respond to a disaster?
- Do we have financial resources set aside in the event that the office is closed for several days or weeks following a disaster?
- What is the policy for staff compensation if the practice temporarily shuts down following a disaster?
- What kind of insurance coverage do we have, and is it up to date and adequate?
Disasters can strike anytime and anywhere. Resist the urge to say, “I’m busy; I’ll put this on the to-do list for later.” Later might be too late. For more information on disaster preparedness, visit the CDC website.