Don’t Panic, Plan.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand why I am writing this post now. All you have to do to is turn on the news. All around us are reports about back-to-back, off-the-chart storms and hurricanes, life-threatening earthquakes, and wildfires popping up like never before. It’s a lot. And sure, it’s enough to make you feel pretty humbled, but I’m here to tell you, it does not have to make you feel helpless.

What I’m saying is, there’s no better time than the present to create a detailed emergency plan for your practice. I get it, as a small-business owner, this task is a little trickier without a “corporate headquarters” to help you out. But the truth is, disaster preparedness is especially important for businesses like yours. In fact, FEMA reports that more than 40% of small businesses, lacking a solid emergency plan, fail to reopen their doors after a disaster strikes.  So let’s dig in and make some plans now, so that together we can beat that statistic.

Be a People Person
Have you ever noticed that when news crews visit the scene of a disaster and interview the victims, standing among their destroyed homes, the response is usually the same, “Well, these are just things. The most important thing is our whole family is safe.” I’m sure you feel the same way about your greatest resource, the members of your team.  So start by asking for their help. Put together an emergency task force to help you create a detailed plan with their safety in mind. Consider things like:

  • A defined evacuation plan
  • Clear instructions and ownership of each duty,
  • Provisions for those needing extra assistance
  • Adequate supplies (water, batteries, chargers, flashlights, first aid kits, whistles, tools for shut-off valves) for all of your staff and the maximum number of patients who could be at your office.

Talk Ain’t Cheap
During a disaster, communication becomes more important than ever. Make sure all of your staff’s contact information is accurate, and that at least a few key employees have access to that information so that they can act as point people if needed. These “communication officers” should also have contact information for vendors, your payroll provider, patients, etc., and understand who needs to know what.

Think Outside Your Phone
Because you won’t be able to depend on cell service, consider alternate means of communication for your practice, your staff and your patients. For example, during these latest events, Facebook has proven to be a great way for people to provide updates and to mark themselves as safe. We’ve also found that during Hurricane Harvey, PatientActivator’s® communication tools have come in really handy.

Geek Out
Let’s face it, our lives are on our computers. So while we have fewer paper documents, records and reports to worry about, we still have to be concerned about the actual hardware that allows us to store all that stuff. Back up your data regularly and store it off site, or better yet, send it to the cloud. And, of course, if you do still have some actual paper documents, make sure you have copies — off site and in a secure, fireproof, waterproof location.

Power Hungry
And while we’re on the topic, let’s spend a moment talking about keeping power flowing to all of this technology. What if during a key procedure your practice goes dark? Could your computers handle a power surge? Think about all the electronic items that would be unusable should you lose power and consider getting a back-up generator or battery system for your computers.

Cover Your … Assets
Recently, when the city of Houston became covered in water, I was amazed to learn the number of business (and home) owners who did not have flood insurance to cover the extensive damage to their properties. When’s the last time you checked your insurance coverage? Do you know what is and isn’t covered? What exactly is an “Act of God” any way? Is your current amount of coverage appropriate for the size of your business today? What about your equipment, could it be replaced if needed? Do yourself a favor, and make sure you’ve got the coverage you need to help you bounce back completely and quickly.

But don’t take my word for it, ask the real experts how to do your future self a favor and get your emergency plan together today. Take a look at the following websites for some additional guidance. And if you are a 1-800-DENTIST member, make sure you’ve got us on your important emergency contact list!

American Red Cross

FEMA

OSHA

CDC

Small Business Administration

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