From blizzards to ice storms to floods, winter is full of potential natural disasters that can put you, your staff and your patients at risk. To protect your practice and your people, take the time to develop a disaster preparedness and business continuity plan. Here’s how.
First, assess what types of disasters are most likely to affect your area. For example, if your practice is in Florida, you’ll need to worry about hurricanes rather than snowstorms.
Next, think about how potential disasters could impact your practice. What would happen if your employees were trapped in the office due to a snowstorm, if the power went out in the middle of the day or if a fire broke out? Consider both the immediate effects (such as emergency evacuation) and the long-term effects (such as losing business because your office is closed for repairs). Brainstorming with your entire staff during a morning huddle can help ensure you cover all the bases.
Once you’ve identified risks and their results, FEMA recommends planning for how you will secure your staff, your space and your systems.
- Staff (including patients): Plan for how you’ll safely evacuate people from the office, shelter them in place or prevent them from coming in. Create a system for communicating with your staff. Have a list of current names, contact information and addresses for all your employees. Put a team leader in charge of communications.
- Space: Make sure your office space as well as your building is equipped with safety features such as functioning smoke alarms and fire extinguishers, multiple emergency exits, water and food, and first aid supplies.
- Systems: Use cloud-based storage and backup solutions to protect practice data. (This is a good time to assess how effective your practice management software is.) Create a plan for shutting down electric equipment to avoid the risk of shock or damage.
Your specific plans will vary based on the risks you face. For instance, a practice in an earthquake-prone state should secure heavy equipment to the walls. Your insurance agent can help you evaluate potential risks and develop a plan to mitigate them. Don’t forget to make sure that your insurance coverage is current and sufficient.
Communication is key to a disaster preparedness plan. You must be able to communicate with both employees and your patients quickly. With Lighthouse 360, you can instantly send a message to all scheduled patients to let them know the office is closed. Use your social media accounts and your website, too, to let patients know if the disaster is affecting your practice.
In addition to patient notification, Lighthouse 360 has multiple other ways to help your practice in a disaster. For example, even if you’ve lost power, Lighthouse 360 has an online version of your appointment book, so all you have to do is call and the support team can help send a message to your patients.
Because Lighthouse 360 has an online appointment book, they can also help your practice with data recovery. If your computers and/or server are damaged due to a fire, flood, storm or other disaster, Lighthouse’s online backup of your patient contact information and appointment schedule ensures you’re not left in the dark.
You can find a wide range of disaster planning resources and guidelines at SCORE, the Small Business Administration and Ready.gov. (Disclaimer: SCORE is a client of my business.) The American Dental Association has a 37-page guide to dealing with medical emergencies in the dental office with an accompanying video training program.