Disaster Preparedness: Clinic Disaster Plans

Formulating a Written Clinic Disaster Plan

 by Amy Newfield, CVT, VTS (ECC) 

In order to establish a complete disaster plan for your veterinary practice you will first need to have a team of dedicated personnel. It may be that the veterinary clinic requires all employees to be involved in some way in the disaster plan, or it may be volunteer or incentives may be given. The more people involved, the faster the plan will likely become established. How involved you want your plan to be is entirely up to you.

Perhaps your clinic only wishes to form an internal plan where you have little to no involvement in the community. Perhaps your clinic would like to be involved with the community and becomes the lead organization in helping to formulate a disaster plan within your town. There are benefits and cons to each situation. If you are not involved in your community, you run the risk during a disaster of losing clients. However, you also likely won’t have to deal with the headache of strays, other clinic’s clients and the financial aspect of it. If you are involved in your community you may end up getting more business because it is another way of putting your name out there. However, if you end up being a key role in setting up the town’s disaster plan, you run the risk during a disaster of becoming quickly overwhelmed with pets, people and questions. The cost could become quite high if you end up serving the town for free.

Once you have your team of people, you will need to establish an internal clinic first. There are several questions you will want to ask when establishing your plan:

  • What will be the clinic’s role during a disaster?
  • What types of animals should the clinic accept?
    • What about wildlife?
    • Farm animals?
    • Can the clinic function as a kennel for strays?
    • Does your state require you to have a wildlife license?
  • Will clients be charged during a disaster?
    • Will the clinic work for free, at a discount, or not at all?
  • What can the clinic afford to donate?
  • Will your clinic pay for overtime worked during a disaster?
  • Will your clinic allow staff members to take off and work for other clinics during a disaster?
  • What system will be used to maintain accurate records of animals seen?
    • Do you have physical/treatment forms in duplicate so that you can give a copy to owners?
  • Does the clinic have a Polaroid camera so that team members can take photographs to document each animal’s treatment?
  • Does the clinic have updated contact information for all employees?
  • Is a copy of important papers being kept offsite?
  • Is the clinic insurance policy current and comprehensive?
  • Is there an itemized inventory list (with costs) compiled of everything in the clinic?
    • Are copies being stored offsite?
    • Has everything including the building itself been photographed and videotaped?
    • Have copies been made and stored offsite?
  • Have computer files been backed up?
    • Are the back-ups being stored at other locations?
  • Is a list of suppliers compiled?
    • This list should include contact numbers and information on how quickly supplies can be delivered if needed.
  • Has a team member researched what additional supplies will be needed?
    • Depending on how involved the team will become, this list may include extra disposable gowns, gloves, and masks; wildlife gloves; caution tape; orange cones or flags; flood lights; and Polaroid cameras and film as well as other supplies.
  • Have you established an ICS system within your clinic?
    • Who will act as Incident Commander?
    • Do you have a Safety Officer?
  • Have you decided where and how you will evacuate pets out of your hospital?
    • Do you have enough leashes and carriers to transport all of the animals?
    • Are owners aware of your evacuation plan?
    • Do you have owner’s permission to evacuate their pets?

Clinic/Community Involvement

  • Is a community veterinary disaster plan going to be established?
    • If so, who will talk to the personnel at other clinics in the community?
    • Who will get contact phone numbers?
  • Is the clinic going to work out an arrangement with other clinics before a disaster occurs?
    • Will the clinics share profits?
    • Will you pay another clinic a certain percentage if you need to use their facility?
    • What equipment is available for use at other clinics?
    • Can veterinary personnel in other clinics help out in your clinic?
  • If all clinics involved in the disaster are affected, is there a clinic in another geographic area that would be willing to help out?
    • Is there a larger facility outside of the area that can be used?
  • Is there a facility that can be used for isolating animals?
    • How about bite wound (rabies suspect) animals?
  • Who is going to compile a list of important contact numbers?
    • This list should include wildlife experts, PTSD counselors, grief counselors, poison control center, and appropriate local, state and federal officials.

Training Issues

  • What training is necessary for team members?
    • How many team members will participate in online or offsite training?
    • Will the veterinary clinic pay for training outside of the work place?
  • Which team member will become familiar with PTSD and research contact information for professional counselors?
  • Is everyone on the disaster team trained on how to triage mass casualties?
  • Is every team member familiar with the medical forms used during disaster?

Other GVMA Disaster Resources

Cold Weather Safety

Find Your Local EMA

Tornado Safety & Resources