Don't ditch disaster training!


No one thinks disaster will strike, until disaster is right on top of them. Do your veterinary team members, patients and clients a favor by staying on top of life-saving procedures when disaster hits.

Photo courtesy of Amanda Inman, CVPMAs managers, we're used to getting an eye roll from others when we discuss safety protocols. And it's a massive time investment to create safety protocols, train on them, keep up with documentation and monitor compliance. But, in the end, it's all worth it.

Our city of Kokomo, Indiana, was hit by not one but multiple tornadoes on August 24. The damage was especially devastating because one of the tornadoes took almost the exact path as a twister in 2013-after which, our city pulled together and rebuilt what had been destroyed. But the community's strength and will was tested again-double the proof that bad things happen to great people and places.

When the severe weather was taking place, I was in a car with our associate veterinarian on the way to CVC Kansas City. We started receiving weather updates from back home on our phones and realized everyone we knew and loved was in a really dangerous scenario, all while we were more than 350 miles from home.

Immediately, we both started making phone calls to family members, schools, daycares and, of course, to the workplace.

I can't tell you how proud I was to hear that our team members used our protocol and followed appropriate clinic shutdown procedures as the weather started to change. They all remained collected as they protected clients that were in the building, got clinic kitties to their safe kennel shelter and assumed their own safe positions in our windowless, innermost area of the clinic. 

Time the training right 

Make sure that everyone is always on the same page when it comes to disaster training. I've found that the most opportune times to train veterinary team members on safety protocol are: 

>When they are hired 

>If the plans change or are edited

>Every year at a team meeting (this is the beginning of the storm season in our area) 

Everyone stayed safe and unharmed because of quick thinking and because they had the tools and training needed to react. Their ability to act without micro-management is like a badge of honor for all to wear. They each showed what teamwork, trust and commitment to protocol can truly mean in a time of natural disaster. 

I created our plan out of necessity as well as a common-sense approach to what's needed in an emergency. I searched for online tools and used The Complete Veterinary Practice Regulatory Compliance Manual by Philip J. Seibert to help guide and edit my ideas and create a written emergency action plan we used for training. 

How to build "Emergency Bins"

As a part of our training plan, we have “emergency bins” located in five strategic locations throughout the clinic. They are bright red and include: 

>A flashlight or lantern with extra batteries (because you know you never have those "C" and "D" cells on hand otherwise!) 

>A clipboard labeled with the area it belongs in (for assured return after the emergency)

>A copy of our team's emergency contact information and preferred hospital if injured

>A head count sheet for clients and patients

>A list of our building services contacts (gas, water, cable, roofing, etc.) 

>An emergency exit map of the building including our safe zones to meet after the events 

>A phone book with paperclips identifying additional emergency phone numbers to all county services including fire, hospital and government 

>A checklist for each department to aid in prepping for emergencies (when able) or to assist with the aftermath of the disaster event

Remember, this didn't happen overnight. It took time. I knew what we needed and made a list, crossing things off as I created, purchased, typed or trained. Now, with it all done, I have a reminder in my Outlook for the yearly training, a safety checkbox in my new hire training packet and a beginning-of-year appointment to review protocol for updates. It's basically a static plan that requires little maintenance or effort.

We all believe it won't happen. Some would say this training is a waste of paid employee time. Others think they can just put it off until “tomorrow.” But please stop today and move safety training to the top of your list. You may not live in tornado alley, but every clinic lives within the parameters of some sort of natural disaster. Your team, patients and clients are precious and deserve to have a devoted safety plan. Don't let them down. 

Amanda Inman, CVPM, is practice manager at Pet Care Clinic of Kokomo in Kokomo, Indiana. 

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