Updating Your Medical Practice Emergency Plan

May 24, 2014

If you don't have a well-executed emergency plan in place, now's the time to get it updated.

What a week this has been: Located in Encinitas, Calif., our five-clinic medical practice was affected by the recent Southern California fires. One of our clinics in the Bressi Ranch-area, located very close to Palmer Airport, was forced to evacuate and literally had minutes to do so. The events over the past week had us reviewing our evacuation plan and emergency policy. Although we live here in California and earthquakes are prevalent and fire season is an actual calendar event, an emergency can happen to anyone, in any state, so take heed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It started about 10:45 a.m. This was not an accidental fire. It was set by someone, deliberately, in an area packed with homes and businesses. The reverse 9-1-1 call did not come. One of our physical therapists/owners walked outside and saw the flames, smoke, and everyone fleeing. He ran back into the clinic and announced they were evacuating. He was calm (although clearly shaken inside) and asked his staff to help all patients to their cars and tell them which direction they needed to drive. We have about a 20 percent Medicare population in that location and they were clearly upset and scared. Plus we have several patients on crutches or healing from surgery. Once the patients were safely evacuated, the staff, with technology, exited the clinic. There was a process in place to make this happen, within minutes. It worked well.

After the evacuation, our CEO stepped in and relocated patients via phone calls and e-mails to the next closest clinic location. Everyone came; every patient. Part of this is our community attitude. We stick together in times of stress and chaos. It's really something that defines the community here in San Diego. We've been through this multiple times. We offer our spare rooms to people we do not know, we bring food to animal shelters at times like this. We, who have not been displaced, bring food, blankets, water, and clothes to the shelters. We have a process, and it's deep seeded and works for us.

Do your clinics have an emergency plan in place? Do you know how to step up and move your patients, staff, and technology to safer locations?

Please don't think because you don't live in California that you are exempt from emergencies. They can happen in many forms: car accidents that knock out power, earthquakes, fires, floods, tornadoes. Many, many types of emergencies can affect your business.

The advice I would give would be:

• Talk to your staff and create a cohesive evacuation plan;

• Pick the leader or person in charge;

• Give them a task list to get patients, staff, and technology out of the office (in that order);

• Have a communication plan in place (whether it's social media or direct phone calls) to let patients and staff know what's happening; and

• Understand that no plan is fool-proof and be okay with obstacles - learn from them.