Practices take a hit from ice storm

Hundreds of thousands of people in Kentucky, Arkansas and Missouri lost their electricity in last week’s devastating ice storm, and veterinary practices were not immune to the damage. Some fared better than others, however.

Ron Eby, DVM, of St. Francis Veterinary Clinic in Green Forest, Ark., said his practice was without electricity for a week. The storm hit Jan. 26, and Eby’s practice lost power the next day until Feb. 2, he said.

The worst effect, he said, was losing phone and Internet service. Being in a rural location, even cell phone service is bad, he said. Only one employee’s cell phone works well, so all the practice’s calls are being routed through that phone while they wait for phone service to be restored.

He said business has suffered as a result of the storm and losing communications. Some of the staff members are still without power at their homes, and none of them came in to work while the practice’s power was out.

Fortunately no animals suffered at the practice. Several animals were being boarded there, but because the building rests on a 4,500-square-foot concrete slab, the indoor area remained at 62 degrees even with no heat.

“The worst thing for us was the loss of a whole week’s work,” Eby said. “It’s amazing how dependent we are on the phones and electricity.”

Kameron K. Worley, DVM, at nearby Berryville Veterinary Clinic in Berryville, Ark., said her practice got lucky.

“We were really fortunate, and were only without power for part of one day,” she said. “Fortunately we didn’t have any critical animals here.”

Though the storm was not a big issue this time for Worley’s practice, she said it was still a wake-up call. She said the practice did not have a comprehensive emergency disaster plan in place.

“Not a detailed one, not like we need,” she said. “It kind of caught the whole area by surprise. I hope it is one of those once in a lifetime things. … We’ll definitely get a plan going now.”

The AAHA accreditation standards include a disaster preparedness plan. Practice Accreditation Coordinator Jane Kimmes, CVT, said while the plan is not mandatory for AAHA accreditation, it is still an important thing for any practice to have in place.

“You never know when the weather will take a turn for the worse and throw something like an ice storm in your path,” Kimmes said. “Without a plan of action that includes a phone tree, a team member to inspect the building for damage and some team members to move patients and files to another location, you could find yourself in a tizzy. Peace of mind comes from always being prepared, even if the event never happens.”

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear on Saturday called the storm the “biggest natural disaster that this state has ever experienced in modern history.”

NEWStat attempted to contact some practices in Kentucky but was not able to get through before press time.

Western Kentucky was hardest hit, but northern Arkansas and Missouri were also affected by the ice storm. The National Guard has helped dig people out and has brought food to people stranded in their homes. Nearly a quarter million people are still without power, and 42 deaths are suspected to be storm-related, according to news reports.