Practical tips when disaster strikes

Practical tips when disaster strikes

The FINANCIAL -- Amid raging wildfires in California, and as it is entered what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls the most active and dangerous time of year for tropical cyclone activity, heed these emergency procedure tips from doctors who have been there.

Make a list.

"We have a hurricane checklist that includes moving and covering equipment and supplies, and zip-tying cabinets shut," says April Jasper, O.D., who practices in coastal Florida, "as well as waterproofing as much as possible with sandbags on the outside and towels on the inside of windows and doors."

Enable staff communication.

Set up a text message group to keep staff in the loop on office closings, check on everyone during the disaster and find out who can make it back to the office, says Ronald L. Hopping, O.D., AOA past president who practices in southeast Houston. "[A text message group creates] camaraderie and connection with the rest of the staff," he says.

Keep records safe.

Ensure your records are backed up. Buildings can be repaired and rebuilt, but lost records can be just as disastrous.

Prepare to help.

Doctors of optometry can be part of the solution during natural disasters, says Tad Buckingham, O.D., assistant professor and attending physician at Pacific University College of Optometry and division chief with Forest Grove Fire & Rescue in Oregon. Take medications and ocular surface treatments with you when evacuating the office, he says. "In disasters, we must be prepared to be called up," Dr. Buckingham says. "Be prepared to help the people who are coming to help you."

Affected by disaster?

Optometry's Fund for Disaster Relief helps change the lives of those doctors affected by natural disasters, providing immediate financial relief for critical and urgent needs, such as food, clothing and shelter. A program of Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation, Optometry's Fund for Disaster Relief has granted nearly a million dollars in grants since its inception in 2005.

Last year alone, hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria precipitated a record year for Optometry's Fund for Disaster Relief with $349,500 granted to 113 doctors. Separately, Optometry's Fund for Disaster Relief for Students granted $16,450 to 71 students.

Anyone can make donations to the disaster fund at any time. Likewise, any doctors and optometry students affected by recent natural disasters can apply for assistance.