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Keeping the doors open during bad weather


Here's how one doctor kept his practice running despite a power outage.

On an average Wednesday, Dr. Ross Clark's Woodland West Animal Hospital and Pet Resort in Tulsa, Okla., might have 60 dogs boarding. On a recent Wednesday, two days after a major ice storm left his practice and 70 percent of the city without power for eight days, his practice boarded 167 dogs. Dr. Clark's practice was among the minority that was able to stay open and provide veterinary care, boarding, and emergency services to clients and non-clients.

Some clinics in the Tulsa area didn't lose power. Others made adjustments to provide service. "I'm amazed at how many clinics closed," Dr. Clark said. "And we did near-record business using flashlights, generators, and propane heaters."

So how did Dr. Clark keep Woodland West open? With the help of  generators and propane heaters that he keeps on hand for just such a situation, the practice's phones were up and running immediately, while other practices were left in the dark and remained closed. "After more than 40 years of trying to grow practices, I've always learned not to close down," he said. To get your practice up and running during a storm, Dr. Clark suggests keeping a natural gas generator on standby or hooked up and ready to go. Team members who could make it to work did, while others stayed home because of downed tree limbs blocking neighborhood streets, childcare issues, or a need to look after their homes.

The arrangement wasn't ideal, but the response from the community was positive and thankful. Employees carried around flashlights and kept track of records by hand until they could get the computers back up and running two days after the storm hit. "Your subconscious doesn't acknowledge how much stuff is electric," Dr. Clark said. "I'd reach to turn on a switch out of habit and nothing would happen. You take it for granted."

It turns out that Dr. Clark kept his practice up and running better than his own home. "In the evenings, we sat and talked by the fireplace with candles lit, showing the kids how Abe Lincoln and I grew up," he said. "We used one small generator to run one light, computers, telephones, and refrigerators."

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