Is your practice ready for a Weather Emergency?
Updated: Aug 25, 2021
Chances are high that during its lifetime every orthodontic practice will have to face, and recover from, one or more severe weather events.
Hurricanes, thunderstorms, damaging winds, flooding, tornadoes, hail, winter storms - none of these words produce warm, fuzzy feelings for a practice owner or their team. At best a weather emergency can cause lost days of work and missed production. At its worst, the toll could be much higher. Damages to expensive equipment like compressors, chairs, x-ray machines etc could cost a practice several thousand dollars. Loss of data servers and computers could corrupt or erase entire patient databases. Repairs and remodels needed to the space could render the office unusable for days on end.
Since we haven't yet figured out how to control the weather, the best way to respond to these situations is to be prepared to minimize the damage and recover as quickly as possible. Here are a few important tips:
Assess your risks and make a plan - Know the weather risks in your area and create an emergency plan for each weather event. Ensure that there is a specific action plan for each weather hazard you may encounter to eliminate ambiguity and keep everyone on the same page. Assign lead points of contact for these events with responsibilities and contact information clearly indicated.
Focus on prevention - Invest in weatherproofing your practice against the most common weather risks in your area. Flood mitigation if you are located in an area at high risk for flooding or winterizing if you are in the north east are examples of this. Maintain your roof, pipes, HVAC systems, fire prevention safety systems in good condition.
Protect Vital business records - Make sure your your important data is securely backed up. Hard copies of the backup should also be saved in a location separate from your primary facility. If on a cloud based system, do you due diligence and check to make sure the PMS vendor has a solid backup plan for your data.
Create an Emergency Contact list - In addition to emergency personnel (fire, hospital, ambulance, police) and disaster relief agencies, include information for insurance companies, vendors and contractors. Include primary and alternate contact numbers for all team members. Keep an extra copy off site and also share with your team electronically.
Have an emergency supplies kit ready -. Include essential items such as first aid supplies, flashlights, battery powered radio, tool kit, extra batteries, nonperishable food and bottled water. Make sure the kit is easily accessible during an emergency. An example of a supply checklist and Emergency checklist template can be found here.
Understand your Insurance Coverage - Review your policy with your insurance agent to make sure you understand your deductibles, the limits of your insurance and the nature of your coverage. There are many different types of coverage, all of which are subject to limitations and exclusions. Some policies like flood and wind damage need to be purchased as separate policies or as additional riders on your existing policy. Consider purchasing Business interruption insurance. Remember, once coverage is purchased it does not become active immediately. Make sure to buy coverage well before emergency weather season approaches.
Keep insurance information and contact names and numbers in a safe place -Knowing where to access this information in the event of an emergency will expedite the claim process.
Keep in touch with your patients - Figure out the best way to communicate with all your active patients - Whether via text, email or automated phone message, the practice needs to inform patients of weather related closures and delays. Have message templates ready to go before being caught up in a weather event. Most services now allow you to send these messages while being away from the office. Put one or two people in charge of emergency patient communication.
Use social media to reach out - Also continue to post updates on your social media platforms as and when possible. Several of your patients will be checking their social media to get their local updates.
Have a backup plan in mind - Talk to dentists or other specialists in the area who are not using their office every single day about using their space if your space is rendered unusable for a long period of time. A short term lease arrangement or a promise to return the favor when they are in need could go a long way.
If you need help setting up these protocols or any other systems in your practice, please call 832-618-0652 or request a complimentary consultation here
In the meantime, Stay Safe!