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Elements to consider in a disaster response plan

With hurricanes Harvey and Irma recently wreaking havoc in Texas and the southern United States, the necessity of a disaster response plan for any business has become clear. Pharmacies, home health agencies and other medically based businesses have a few additional elements to consider when it comes to disaster response.

For example, one consideration could be how to keep medications and other sensitive materials protected from possible looters, and in the case of refrigerated medications, the potential loss of power.

Communication comes first

Communication should be a strong element in any disaster response plan. That includes employer-employee communication and business-public communication. Say that you run a home health agency and that most of your caregivers are evacuating in advance of a storm. Do you have pre-set expectations for how employees will communicate about this to you and how you will explain these changes to your clients? Can you communicate confidently about how your agency can continue to deliver high standards of care (assuming the clients do not have to evacuate)? And what about clients in required evacuation areas but who cannot physically evacuate on their own?

With a pharmacy, communication to the public should detail when the pharmacy plans to close in advance of a storm and, ideally, be in plenty of time for customers to get the medications they need. In the aftermath of a disaster, a pharmacy could post on its website as well as in the store what emergency measures it is undertaking. For example, after Harvey, companies allowed pharmacists in Texas to use their judgment to refill many prescriptions if necessary.

When employees evacuate or relocate temporarily, their contact information may change. Be sure that you have their cellphone numbers and other essential information before they leave.

General plan elements

In general, your disaster response plan should have elements such as:

  • Risk assessments
  • Performance objectives and regulations so you remain in compliance
  • Internal and external resources
  • Protective actions
  • Communication (before, during, after)

When feasible, it helps to run training scenarios. These may not always be possible when the disaster in question is something such as a hurricane, but you should be able to train to better prepare for scenarios such as explosions, fires and even robberies.