Recent fires, hurricanes, and floods nationwide have highlighted the importance of planning for disasters. Wildfires in California forced several physicians to quickly relocate their practices―some permanently―and to move scheduled procedures to different facilities. Hurricane and flood damage in Texas and Florida left practices without power for days or even weeks. Is your practice prepared for this type of situation?
A disaster can overwhelm a medical practice, with damage that can include shattered windows, flood debris, power outages, disrupted telephone systems, computer and system outages, unsafe drinking water, destroyed medical records, medication exposure to temperature and humidity extremes, contaminated instruments, and building structure failure.
Disaster preparedness requires a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, rehearsing, and evaluating. Physicians are critical participants in disaster preparedness, ensuring that patient care and critical services are not interrupted—especially for at-risk individuals who may have special medical needs.
Before the next disaster strikes, make sure your practice has a plan in place. A checklist, ordered by priority and customized to specific types of disasters, can provide the framework for a comprehensive plan. The checklist should include these elements:
Planning today makes accomplishing the following tasks more feasible during a disaster:
Computers and systems
In addition, create an inventory of all equipment and medications that may have been exposed to water or extremes in temperature. Repair, replace, or discard damaged items appropriately.
Once your plan is in place, regularly reevaluate its steps and update all contact information. Practice and rehearse the plan’s protocols. An effective disaster preparedness plan will help keep your practice focused on delivering care during an emergency.
The guidelines suggested here are not rules, do not constitute legal advice, and do not ensure a successful outcome. The ultimate decision regarding the appropriateness of any treatment must be made by each healthcare provider considering the circumstances of the individual situation and in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction in which the care is rendered.