Ready for anything: Is your hospital equipped for an emergency?
Disaster can strike at any time. As Hurricane Harvey continues to hit Houston and its surrounding communities, veterinary hospitals in the storm’s path are putting their emergency plans into place, while others are springing into action to provide assistance from afar.
Ensure your practice team is prepared to handle any emergency—and be of service to others—with these tips.
How to prepare
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 using the AAHA hospital locator tool through the American Red Cross app. The app also provides valuable first aid information for pet owners.
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 (you may already be doing this to fulfill standard SA05.1), particularly if your hospital is located in an area prone to natural disasters. Every staff member should know where essential items, like 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 (you may already be doing this to fulfill standard SA06).
Prepare your medical supplies. Think about drugs, like 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.
How to help
The desire to assist in an emergency is natural, but sometimes extra hands can hurt more than they help. If you’re looking to join the relief effort, it’s best to get involved with a local organization, such as a Veterinary Medical Assistance Team (VMAT), to receive proper training and certification before disaster strikes.
If you’re already certified and have been contacted by an organization that needs specific veterinary help in Houston, you can apply for a temporary emergency license through the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (TBVME).
The American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) also provides disaster reimbursement grants to American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) members who provide emergency medical care and/or boarding services to affected animals.
Can’t be there in person, but want to support the work of these veterinary teams? Make a donation instead. When completing the donation form, be sure to use the AVMF code “Disaster Relief” to ensure funds are distributed to the correct cause.
Donations may also be made to the following organizations: