While it's very difficult to prepare for every emergency you could face, you can and should prepare a base plan that addresses the most basic issues that arise in any emergency. And developing this plan opens discussion between management and team members. It gets them thinking about what they need to do in different situations. Consider these issues to get started:
- Your base plan should outline your approach to covering OSHA basics. So, for example, your team members need to know basic fire safety rules (your local fire prevention bureau will assist with training); who they need to contact in the event of an emergency; and where to find your facility's emergency water, oxygen, gas, and main power cutoffs .
- Your plan should explain where you'll store critical contact information and how you'll keep it up to date. For example, you need current phone numbers for emergency agencies; team members; and clients whose pets are in the practice for boarding, hospitalization, and daycare. Also discuss an evacuation plan. If you had to get all of the people and pets out of your practice at a moment's notice, what would you do?
- As you develop your plan, you'll find you need to develop a list of items you'd need in an emergency. For example, your team might identify flashlights, leashes, extra keys, and tie-out ropes as some of the critical emergency tools.
- Finally, designate a location where all team members would meet to assure that everyone is safe. And emphasize team and pet safety over and over.
In an emergency, the last plan that you want to implement is the "no plan" plan. So talk regularly about the potential hazards that your team is most likely to face, and keep refining your plan, so you're as prepared as possible for the unexpected.
Jean Weaver is the hospital administrator at Catawba Animal Clinic in Rock Hill, S.C.