Sep
12
2018

As Hurricane Florence churns relentlessly toward the Carolina coastline, veterinary hospitals in the storm’s path are putting their emergency plans into place. If the “storm of a lifetime” were bearing down on your practice, would you be ready?

No matter where you’re located, make sure your practice team is prepared to handle any emergency, from floods to wildfires, with these tips:

Keep in touch with clients any way you can. Information is like oxygen in an emergency—and it’s an easy service your practice can provide, even (and especially) when you’re not open for business. Plus, with a little planning, good client communication can actually elevate your hospital’s status as a leading resource in the community.

Social media is perfect for getting essential information out quickly and updating it often. Use it to brief clients on any changes affecting your practice (business hours, road closures), post reminders, and direct them to local resources, as well as document your experience.

Is your hospital open for emergencies, taking in rescues, or caring for boarding pets? Be sure to keep mobile phones charged to contact clients who have pets in your care in the event your telephone lines go down. Provide excellent service even in an emergency by sending text or photo updates to clients who are separated from their pets.

Closed or evacuating? Direct clients to find other AAHA-accredited hospitals in safe areas using the AAHA hospital locator tool at aaha.org/petowner or through the American Red Cross app. The app also provides valuable first aid information for pet owners. It’s available for both Android and iPhone.

Make sure your hospital is well-equipped for emergencies. The right resources can be the difference between keeping your doors open or closed in a time of need. Regularly review your emergency checklist and ensure you have everything your hospital might need to keep assisting patients and clients, such as a generator, water, headlamps or flashlights, and batteries.

Educate your team. Be sure to hold regular safety and preparedness meetings with the entire practice team, particularly if your hospital is located in an area prone to natural disasters. Every staff member should know where essential items, such as alarms and oxygen tanks, are located and how to turn them on and off. If your team is used to using fluid pumps, consider regular refresher courses on how to calculate fluid rates without a pump.

Think ahead and have a plan. Who will stay at the hospital in the event of an emergency? How will boarding patients be cared for if the hospital needs to close? What if additional support is needed? Consider these questions ahead of time and make a predetermined schedule of each team member’s responsibilities.

Prepare your medical supplies. Think about drugs, such as insulin, that need to be refrigerated and plan accordingly. Keep a cooler with ice packs and a thermometer ready to ensure these items are kept at a constant temperature. Public health can also quickly become an issue. Make sure you have bleach and hand sanitizer in your emergency supplies to keep contamination at bay.

For more information on emergency preparedness, see the feature story, “Be Prepared! Notes from the Field on Disaster Planning” in the September issue of AAHA’s Trends magazine.

Photo credit: iStock/imagedepotpro

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