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It’s important to consider urgent care emergency planning, especially when severe weather is emerging.

As the first real threat of the 2012 Hurricane season bears down on the Gulf Coast, thousands of residents in the region are scrambling to prepare before Isaac makes landfall. While many are evacuating, others are stocking up and battening down the hatches to ride out the storm. Although Isaac is expected to remain a Category 1 hurricane, even the most stalwart lifers of the area are still wise enough to realize that the resulting storm surges and tornado-like winds are nothing to take lightly.

As an Urgent Care owner or operator in the region, you might be faced with the decision of stay or go. Do you risk the well-being of your family and staff or do you heed the advice of emergency officials and head inland?

And what about your facility; the tangible assets as well as the security what steps have you taken to prepare? Whether or not you decide to stay or head for higher ground, what will you return to when the skies are once more sunny and blue?

The time to be thinking about preparing is not in the hours before the storm but rather long before the need ever arises. Having effective policies and procedures outlined and then training your staff to enact them is a critical part in being prepared for events such as fires, tornados, hurricanes and even other critical events such as violence committed by patients or staff.

Begin by defining which conditions under which you will close the urgent care. Typically these are things like hurricanes, flash floods which could be a threat to the well-being of staff or patients, and snow or ice conditions where the safety of staff commuting to work supersedes the need to be open. The list isn’t limited to these weather related items and policies need to address emergencies related to forced evacuations due to environmental disasters, terrorism, and any other threat to the safety of staff and patients.

Next, construct a notification procedure. How will you communicate with staff any closing of the urgent care and subsequently, the re-opening once an All-Clear has been given by the authorities? In the case of a natural disaster, it is often imperative that re-establishing medical care (both public and private) be given top priority. Do you have all of your staff home and /or cell phone numbers? Will they be evacuating as well? Will you establish a list of emergency employees that are first line call who are critical to the function of the facility.

And don’t forget to make preparations for the actual facility. You should have a checklist or procedure for each potential emergency situation (fire, flood, hurricane, etc) in place to prepare the contents as much as possible. How will you protect the capital equipment? How secure are your medical records? How fast will you be able to recover upon return? Can you connect with critical suppliers once the All-Clear has been established?

Finally, believe it or not, you should have a contingency plan for financials. Are you adequately covered both for damage and for operations afterward? Operators that have actually dealt with the aftermath of a natural disaster were surprised to find that one of the hardships was not the damage to their clinic but the financial toll of having displaced staff while the facility was being repaired. Worse still, many of their staff had damage to their own homes in the wake of the storm.

So while we watch the weather and certainly send our prayers and best wishes for safety to all our urgent care family along the coast, we remind everyone of the old adage that seems appropriate to our industry: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Take a few moments to adequately plan for the safety of your clinic before the storm clouds arrive.

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