Disasters Can Happen Anytime. Is Your Office Prepared?

No one wants to think about disaster striking their home or workplace, but being caught unaware can be catastrophic. Especially with patients under your care, having a plan in place is essential. Additionally, as a medical professional, members of your community may be looking to you for guidance, leadership and aid. Are you ready?

Create an emergency kit and conduct biannual audits:
Here’s what should be in a standard emergency kit. Additional materials may be necessary depending on your location and specific situation.

  • Water – one gallon per person per day for three days. It’s easier to keep these in individual jugs rather than in an enormous drum, and easier to dispense in case of a crisis.
  • Food – A three-day supply of non-perishable food for each person, and the utensils necessary to open/prepare and eat it. Prioritize protein, fiber and "energy" (sugar/carbs).
  • NOAA Weather Radio (solar or hand-crank chargeable).
  • First aid supplies.
  • Garbage bags and wet wipes.
  • Wrenches (that you’ve tested for fit) to turn off utilities manually (you don’t want gas flowing if there’s been a break).
  • Flashlights, extra batteries, and hand-crank backup light.
  • Glasses – if you wear them, keep a spare pair in the emergency kit. Even a former prescription is better than none at all.

Expired food and medication are no good to anyone in an emergency situation, so remove any expired supplies, or rotate out supplies that are about to expire and use them up, while restocking the kit with fresh ones.

Do emergency drills for hazards that can occur in your area:
Make sure you have a plan for any and all disasters that could occur in your area, however unlikely. Employees should practice sheltering, and assisting patients to safety who may be interrupted mid-procedure. You and any associates should review your most common procedures and develop a plan to temporize where practical, and regroup in a safe place which will vary according to the specific disaster.

  1. Designate an emergency leader. This can be you or a trusted staff member who is scheduled to work nearly every day. This person will be responsible for leading an evacuation or directing shelter-in-place, as well as obtaining the emergency supplies as needed.
  2. Plan your exit routes as well as your shelter sites. These will change depending on the hazards in your area. A tornado will require a sturdy room in the basement or middle of your facility, whereas an earthquake would prioritize sheltering near outer walls and under sturdy tables or other surfaces. The emergency leader will be responsible for guiding the staff and patients to these shelter sites or to the exits.
  3. Agree on a place to regroup after the hazard has passed. This should be a visible and safe location not far from your practice, away from tall buildings, water mains etc. (if possible).
  4. Finally, make sure everyone has updated their emergency contacts in your records. Should someone be rendered unconscious or otherwise incapacitated, tasks like determining their blood type or medication allergies could be quickly accomplished by calling their contact.

Emergency preparedness can be a great team building exercise, and although building the kit and running drills can be a lot of work at first, being prepared in an emergency could make all the difference to a patient’s life, or that of you and your staff.

For more information, see:

https://www.ready.gov/

https://www.acep.org/Clinical---Practice-Management/EMS-and-Disaster-Preparedness/

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