Pediatric Emergency Preparedness [Updated!]

In a classic non-sequitor blog move, I am going to change subjects entirely today.

Once, when I was working in support @ PCC, I received a cryptic call from one of our clients.  "Which wire to the hard drive controls the power?"

As you can imagine, you never, ever want to hear a question like this in support.  It means all kinds of bad things.  Our clients should never even see a wire, let alone a hard drive.

It took a little while, but I finally was able to coax the client to explain to me that a construction crew on the floor above the practice dropped a cinder block through the celing and smashed the server! The office was trying to figure out what to do!

Are you prepared for such a disaster?  What about the kid who pours a bottle of milk into your main server?  Or the car that runs into your building, taking out all your phones and power?  Or, an ice storm hits your county and everyone loses power for the week?  Or you end up under water from frozen or broken pipes?  Etc., etc.  At PCC, we've seen all these things and more.

Disaster preparedness is the name of the game, today.  I took a call from Dr. Scott Needle at the AAP last week and we had a fun discussion about What The AAP Has Done For You Lately.

I didn't even realize (though I should have) that there would be a Disaster Preparedness Advisory Council at the AAP.  To my surprise, they've developed a comprehensive "DP" tool - check it out - that, although it's a little clunky, is very thorough.  I asked him to pen a letter to our clients, because they are looking for your help.  His response is below:

Dear PCC members,

The AAP’s Disaster Preparedness Advisory Council needs your help. Private pediatric practices are a vital and integral part of the health care infrastructure—up to 90% of outpatient care is given in private practices every day. Historically, however, community disaster preparedness for the health sector has focused on hospitals and community health departments. We believe it is important that private practices be prepared for disaster in order to help serve the community, as well as ensure their own survival as small businesses. And the events of the past few years hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, fires, even pandemic influenza—show that no community is completely immune to disaster.

In 2005 I had a solo private practice in the town of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. That August, Hurricane Katrina destroyed most of my town, home, and office. My practice had a rudimentary disaster plan, and while no one could have anticipated the extent of devastation after a storm such as that, I was still able to return to seeing patients a short time later. My experiences over the next months—including, for a time, operating my practice out of a classroom trailer with three exam rooms (but no running water)—left me with the determination that others could learn from what those of us on the Gulf Coast went through, and be better prepared the next time disaster struck.

We want to hear how we can help your practice become better prepared. The AAP has developed a disaster preparedness tool on the Practice Management Online website, free for members (available at The tool provides step-by step, concrete actions that you can take to develop a practice preparedness plan, complete with model templates and checklists. We would encourage you to take a few minutes to try out the tool, and give us your feedback: is this helpful? Clear? Easy to use? Would something else serve you better?

We are also looking to recruit a few practices who can commit to using the tool over the next year. The practices would have the chance to develop a robust disaster preparedness plan, while giving the AAP valuable insight into the process and its effectiveness, so we can better help and motivate other pediatric practices.

I would encourage you to take just a few minutes to look over the online preparedness tool and let me know what you think. Also let me know if your practice might be willing to step up and commit to developing a disaster plan over the next year. I’d also be glad to answer any other questions you might have. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Scott Needle, MD, FAAP
Naples, FL AAP Disaster Preparedness Advisory Council
239.591.1755 (office)
228.363.2461 (cell)

Update: look at this awesome document from Bonnie Lovette (PedTalk Wizardress). Great material!