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Clients are vital for your business to survive the post-disaster economic period. You must find a communication medium (newspaper, radio, newsletters, mail outs, welfare centres, medical centres, churches, cultural groups, fed farmers) that will provide contact for the vast majority of your client base to inform them of clinic plans and where you will be seeing patients until full functionality is restored.
Logistics
In your plan you need to address access to essential services (known as lifelines in disaster management) such as utilities power, water, sewage, gas and medical oxygen. Do you have a backup generator and do you know where to order drinking water or do you have a reserve rainwater tank that could supply you for up to five days? Is your data backed up regularly and stored off site. What is your accessibility like during a disaster? Many large businesses now store data off site at several places regionally and internationally. This gives them the ability to continue with their business if the premises are not accessible.
Businesses need to identify alternative premises
where they could continue to run their practice. Start conversations with other practices in your area or
you may have to look further afield if your community
is severally affected. There are many examples
where veterinary practice has shared premises after disasters. What arrangements can you make with fellow colleagues? If you have to evacuate your premises how are you going to transport your patients and where are you going to take them? If it is a slow onset event then you could contact owners to collect their pets or you could offer to shelter in place. If you do offer the latter you must ensure you can guarantee the safety of your patients. There are examples where veterinarians have kept the patients on site but failed to secure the building which has resulted in death of the patients.
Organisation (management & staff)
What roles will staff play during a response in your clinic? What training do they need to fulfil this role and when are you going to exercise a scenario to ensure your plan works? It is important to get everyone involved in writing the plan to ensure all staff understand what you are trying to achieve and they understand the importance of this process.
How are you going to contact your staff after an event? You need to know they are safe and they need to know you are safe. Prior to the event they should be aware
of the triggers in your plan to initiate clean-up efforts and they will want to know their employment status post-disaster period. All staff members should be given contact phone tree indicating who to contact after an event via various means. The details should be updated regularly and staff given a copy to have on them at all times. A great way to do this is to make a laminate credit card size copy of the contact details so they can put in their wallet.
The veterinary clinic should have contact details of
the local representative for the national veterinary association as they will no doubt have an animal welfare support role to fulfil during and after an event. They will be wanting to know your business functional status.
This information can be passed on to the necessary agencies to assist with developing situational awareness and understand the needs of the community and your business. It is ideal to know who your contacts are before an event occurs to understand what their role is and what resources they have to offer.
Conclusion
The priority during any disaster should begin with
you. If you are not safe, there is no way you will be of use to your whānau (Maori word for extended family), business and community. Everything needs to be kept in perspective when dealing with a disaster. Human life is addressed first as it should be. This does not rule out preparing for an animal emergency response or for it to occur at the same time as human emergency response.
Well prepared countries are not immune to the destructive impact of the forces of nature. Therefore, there is a need to plan for many different events. As a profession we must always maintain an inherent flexibility to rapidly respond to changing circumstances. Sharing knowledge and experience is an essential element of prevention and preparedness. A resilient community has the ability to return to normality faster than an ill prepared community. To be able to respond to a disaster you have to be prepared. To be prepared you have to have a
plan. Now is the time to put a plan in place or revise your current plan.
Resources
American Veterinary Medical Association: Disaster preparedness for veterinari- ans https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Reference/disaster/Pages/default.aspx
Ministry for Primary Industries New Zealand: Animals in Emergencies
https://www.mpi.govt.nz/protection-and-response/animal-welfare/ani- mals-in-emergencies/
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