Preparing for Disaster: Easy Ways to Be Ready

Posted on Jul 17, 2019 by Lori Boyer

Disasters can strike at any time. Is your practice ready?With hurricane season upon us, I thought it would be a good time to review best practices for emergency procedures. In this popular post, we discussed strategies for preparing both your practice AND your patients for a disaster.

Earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis. It is amazing how quickly life can go from 0 to 10. In fact, over the last year alone, the United States has seen over 100 catastrophes resulting in billions and billions in losses. That equates to a disaster of some sort every three days! Scientists warn that these numbers are on the rise. 

A poll conducted by OSHA found that more than 50 percent of healthcare facilities had been required to evacuate or initiate an emergency response at some point. Years of work and dedication can be lost in minutes. The good news is that studies have shown that planning ahead can have a significant impact on outcomes.

(Don’t miss our follow-up post where we discuss what you need to do to reach out to your patients during a disaster. Tip: It will include ready-to-go emails you can send).

Before a Disaster

  1. Select a staff member to be the safety coordinator—overseeing all emergency protocols and functions.
  2. Fully insure your practice to cover potential losses.
  3. Make sure all of your records are backed up and/or located in the cloud. Back-up records at least twice daily, optimally in different locations. This should be possible through your EHR or your PRM solution.
  4. Make sure all records with PHI are stored in HIPAA-compliant storage areas in multiple locations.
  5. Store a set of keys and other essentials in an offsite location.
  6. Develop a plan for notifying staff and patients if an emergency affects your office.
  7. Develop a plan for what to do if disaster strikes while patients are in your office—evacuation and potential shelter within your practice (if needed for disasters such as tornadoes).
  8. Create contingency plans for backup power and emergency lighting.
  9. Stock your facility with the needed supplies, water, and food in case you are stuck at the office. FEMA recommends having enough supplies for three days.
  10. Maintain an up-to-date list of contacts for assistance that might be needed. These include local emergency contacts, state and federal authorities, utility companies, medical equipment and supply contractors, etc.
  11. Run regular disaster response drills—both with patients in the office and without.

After Disaster Strikes

Once disaster strikes, it is critical that you follow out all plans as prepared in advance. In addition, makeWhen disaster strikes, your practice should follow preparedness planssure you:

  1. Communicate with local and state authorities as needed.
  2. Reach out to patients to give them direction.
  3. Move all drugs and needles away from your facility to discourage looting. Put a sign on your door letting people know that all valuables have been moved.
  4. Be prepared to work with limited resources or in a new location.

If you would like to know more about what how to protect your clinic in the case of a disaster, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s page on emergency preparedness here.

Cloud based platforms like Solutionreach can keep the lines of communication open. One of our offices recently experienced a devastating fire. They had not been backing up their server and lost all of their records. However, since they were clients of Solutionreach (which is located on the cloud), they were able to contact all of their patients and communicate instructions effectively.

Prepping ready-to-send emails before disaster strikes

 

You practice should be the experts in helping patients prepare for a disaster If your area is facing a potential disaster, not only do you need to think of how to secure your practice, but you should also be thinking of how to help your patients.

Strong healthcare practices are about building real relationships. Just as you would check in with family and friends, you should also check in with your patients when disaster strikes. As their healthcare professional, your patients trust you. You have valuable knowledge about how they should care for themselves during a difficult time.

Sending a quick email is an incredible way to show that you care. Here are some sample emails you can send out to patients. You can customize these to your individual circumstances. Emails or newsletters like these are also great to send out when there is no natural disaster in sight as a way to be prepared.


Medical email (NOTE: You should make this email customized to your specialty. If you are an OBGYN, for instance, you may want to share information about what to do if you go into labor during an emergency.)

Sample medical email for patient emergency preparedness

Hello (Name),

We at (name of your practice) want to help you be as prepared as possible in case of a disaster. Here are a few things that you can do now so that if disaster strikes, your medical needs will be covered.

  • Please refill your medications as early as your prescription allows (even if you have pills left) so that you will always have an emergency supply
  • Make a list of medications you take and keep that list in your wallet for medical professionals
  • Have a bag ready in case of quick evacuation that includes these items:
    • General medications (pain killers, antacids, etc)
    • Prescription medications
    • Purified water for medications that need to be mixed before use
    • Glucose or blood monitoring equipment
    • Basic First-Aid Kit
    • Dust Mask for exposure to toxins
  • Remember! After a disaster, all drugs that may have been exposed to the elements or require refrigeration need to be carefully inspected or replaced.

If our office is closed due to a disaster, we recommend that you contact (list of alternative numbers or emergency numbers to call).

And most of all—keep safe out there!


Dental email:

Sample dental email for patient emergency preparedness

Hello (Name),

We at (name of your practice) want to help you be as prepared as possible for potential disasters. One area that often gets overlooked during a disaster is your dental health. Here are a few things that you can do now so that if disaster strikes, your dental needs will be covered.

Here are the items you want to be sure to have on hand:

  • Extra toothbrushes
  • Several tubes of toothpaste
  • A box of baking soda that can also be used as toothpaste
  • Plenty of clean and bottled water jugs
  • Powdered milk so you can continue to get regular amounts of calcium

Items you want to include in your emergency disaster dental kit:

  • Bottles of sterile water to clean your mouth
  • Plastic baggies in case you need to store a tooth until you can get treatment
  • Plenty of gauze to help stop the bleeding
  • Cotton balls you can use to apply pressure if you lose a tooth
  • Tweezers so you can grab small splinters, pieces of glass, or anything else to be removed

If our office is closed and you have a dental emergency, we recommend that you contact (list of alternative numbers or emergency numbers to call).

And most of all—keep safe out there!


Eye Care Email: 

Sample vision email for patient emergency preparedness

Hello (Name),

We at (name of your practice) want to help you be as prepared as possible if disaster should strike. Did you know that eye injuries are an extremely common occurrence during disasters? The eye is a fragile, vulnerable part of the body. We want you to be protected!

Here are a few things that you can do now so that if disaster strikes, your eye care needs will be covered.

Here are the items you want to be sure to have on hand:

  • Spare prescription glasses
  • Additional contact lenses and spare contact lens case
  • Current prescription
  • Eye drops
  • Eye wash
  • Any eye care prescriptions

If disaster strikes and you’ve lost or damaged your eyewear, know that help is available. Please contact your local Red Cross chapter (phone number here based on geography).

If our office is closed and you have an eye care emergency, we recommend that you contact (list of alternative numbers or emergency numbers to call).

And most of all—keep safe out there!


Showing that you care about a patient's safety during times of trouble can enhance your relationship in ways you couldn't imagine. If you want to read more about improving that patient relationship, you can read "Seven Steps to Improving Patient Relationships" now. 

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Lori Boyer

Lori Boyer

Lori Boyer has spent over a decade developing content and customer strategy for a wide variety of companies. She especially loves "walking a mile" in the shoes of her target audience. At Solutionreach we focus on relationships - building and maintaining them. She does the same. Lori Boyer is a lover of crisp fall mornings, a good book, and just about anything Beauty and the Beast related.

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