June 1st to November 30th is hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and Central Pacific Ocean. This weekend's big news story is the year's first major storm: Hurricane Harvey as it threatens the Texas Coast. According to the National Weather Service, over a typical 2-year period, the U.S. coastline is hammered by an average of three hurricanes, one of which is classified as major (winds of 111 mph or greater), and numerous tropical storms. Is your practice prepared for power outages and possible closure that comes with these storms?
There is a lot of information out there on hurricane preparedness and it can be overwhelming to sift through. However, Physicians First Messages wants you to know there are five important things you can focus on to make sure you and your practice can properly continue to help your community in the event of hurricane or storm.
1. Protect Your Property
The office building, renovated house, or state-of-the-art hospital you practice in are all susceptible to damage. Make sure windows are properly covered using plywood, shutters, or anything else that will protect them from windblown debris. Clear the area around your building of branches or dead trees that could damage your building. Secure computers and other electronics with straps or velcro and raise them if possible. Do the same to water heaters, gas tanks, and heaters within your ability. Turn off all utilities prior to the hurricane making landfall. If you rent or lease the space, make sure that management has proper protocols in place to keep your office as secure as possible.
2. Protect Important Documents and Information
Your practice holds a lot of information that you don’t want lost or damaged. Ensure hard copies of information are backed up elsewhere. If you can’t remove these files from the location, seal them in waterproof containers onsite. Take a look at what important contacts you might need for business operation, such as lawyers, insurance companies, and utilities, and make sure you have all of that information with you. You can’t depend on a cell phone or computer to have electricity or cell signal to retrieve that information.
3. Develop a Plan
The American Society of Safety Engineers recommends you create an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) if you don’t already have one. The plan should include policies and procedures for employee safety and contingency plans for facility damage and dealing with patients. Make sure everyone is sure about the conditions that activate the plan, what the chain of command is, and who will perform what emergency functions that are need.
4. Communication with Patients
In the wake of disaster or even something as simple as a power outage, the communication you are accustomed to may not be available. After significant hurricanes, there have been problems with internet, land-line telephones, and cell service. Posting hand-painted signs and word of mouth is helpful. An answering service, like Physicians First Messages, would be imperative for your practice. Our system is on two separate, secure servers and our off-premise site has three generators and is monitored at all times of the day and night by our on-site staff. Additionally, the phone company has direct lines into our off premise site and our employees can access the system regardless of location. So, whether a hurricane hits your office or ours, your answering service will not fail.
5. Take Care with Vaccines and Other Medications
Vaccines represent a significant financial investment and require special storage. There may also be other medical supplies that require similar consideration. Check with local hospitals, health departments or other regional facilities that have significant generator capabilities. They may agree to store vaccines and other medical supplies. Alternatively, a medium or large generator at the physician’s house may enable storage at the home and can be packed in insulated shipping boxes or coolers to transport them there.
Hurricanes and other storms can create chaos if your facility is shut down or out of power. Make sure you have a plan in place and you and your staff are as prepared as you can be. This will ensure an easier time recovering after the disaster and make you more effective in providing essential services to the community around you.
Stay Safe Out there!
Owner and operator