In case of emergency

October 17, 2016
Anything can happen, and you can ensure your practice is ready.

Excerpted from page 48 of the October 2016 edition of AOA Focus

To show his staff­ how much he cares, Douglas Melzer, O.D., presented each one of them with a Christmas bonus and a five-gallon bucket of freeze-dried food—to be used in the event of an emergency situation. The bucket—the ARK 390 by Chef's Banquet, which can be purchased at places like Costco or—contains enough food for the average adult to consume 2,000 calories a day for a month. That's breakfast, lunch and dinner; all you need to do is add water.

"I think they were intrigued by the bucket," says Dr. Melzer, who practices in Portland, Oregon. "It's a worthwhile investment in your staff and a sure sign that you care for their well-being." He adds, "In the event of an emergency, you'll be glad you had it."

Cause for pause

Almost daily, it seems, reports of disasters are in the news; from natural disasters such as wildfires, tornadoes and floods, to tragedies such as mass shootings and lead contamination in public water sources. "In the grand scheme of things, it's highly unlikely that anything will happen," says Karl Citek, O.D., Ph.D., a professor of optometry at Pacific University College of Optometry in Forest Grove, Oregon. "What are the odds that a disaster would occur?" Dr. Citek says. "It's pretty low. But then again when it does happen ..."

It can happen virtually in your backyard. Dr. Citek recalled the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, an active volcano in the neighboring state of Washington. And last October, a student gunman entered a classroom at a nearby Oregon community college, about 200 miles from Pacific University, and fatally shot eight students and a teacher. These days, Pacific University's emergency preparedness goes beyond fire drills. They also conduct active-shooter drills.

Eye of the storm

Brian Kubo, O.D., was serving in the U.S. Army Reserve in support of Operation Enduring Freedom at Fort Polk, Louisiana, when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and other gulf states in August 2005. The devastation wrought by Katrina, mostly brought on by flooding, largely missed Fort Polk, which is about 250 miles from New Orleans. However, a month later, Hurricane Rita roared in. "The eye of the storm came near the base and went through the western Louisiana-eastern Texas border," says Dr. Kubo, who practices in Honolulu, Hawaii. "We lost power for over a week." And that wasn't Dr. Kubo's first brush with a tropical storm. His medical unit in the Hawaii Army National Guard was assigned to the island of Kaua'i during Hurricane Iniki in 1992. The unit consisted of Dr. Kubo, physicians, nurses, dentists and medics.

"We keep a week's worth of dry foods and water—including for our dogs—on hand," he says. "I keep my barbecue grill propane tank full during hurricane season so we can cook and boil water if we need to. We also have lanterns and batteries, as well as candles and basic First Aid supplies." 

Planning ahead

So how can a doctor of optometry prepare for these eventualities to keep his or her offices open for patients and staff? The doctors offer several tips for the practice, and at home:

  • Store bottled water.
  • Keep filtration straws, which make contaminated water drinkable, on hand.
  • Keep a landline phone.
  • Batteries are good, but radios that don't require batteries are better.
  • Know where your office gas and water lines are so they can be turned off in case of a leak.
  • Consider CPR training for your staff. In some states, such as Oregon, it is required by law.

"If nothing else, everyone should develop a plan of where family members should go if there is an emergency, as well as a central contact person—family or friend in another city or state—who can be called when local communication or travel is disrupted," Dr. Citek says.

So what will Dr. Melzer be getting his staff this Christmas?  

"We're considering providing each staff person with a 55-gallon water container with a filter for storage of emergency water supply," Dr. Melzer says.

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