In a major disaster, it might be several days before vital services are restored. San Francisco is exposed to a wide variety of hazards, both natural and man-made. Earthquakes, fires, severe storms, power outages, and acts of terrorism are just some of the potential emergencies we may encounter. The San Francisco Medical Society strongly urges physicians and their patients to click on the links below to find out how to prepare yourself and your family for an emergency.
Please also review our October 2007 issue of San Francisco Medicine, entitled Disaster! A Comprehensive Guide for Physicians.
Information about Professional Preparedness
In addition to the items you will need to be personally prepared in the event of a disaster, there are a number if items that will aid you in offering your services as a medical professional. Once you have assembled your personal disaster preparedness kit, including items such as food, water, first-aid kits, meeting plans for your family, and the other items detailed on the above websites, you can use the following resources to be sure your patients are also professionally prepared.
Physician Disaster Preparedness Necessities
- Have professional diagnostic equipment. Bring items such as portable ophthalmoscopes, otoscopes, stethoscopes, penlights, and BP cuffs when responding to a disaster.
- Make copies of identification materials. Keep photocopies of your current medical license, driver's license, and any hospital identification cards in an accessible place. Your medical license and driver's license will be necessary to practice in an EMS/prehospital setting if that is where you're needed immediately following a disaster. Get on the list. The San Francisco Department of Public Health maintains a Health Alert Notification Database (HAND). The HAND is a confidential database used only to send out important and timely health information. If you are a clinician living or working in San Francisco and would like to receive alerts, click here to sign up.
- Have an office disaster plan. Every office should have a plan. Make sure your office or clinic has a cache of food, water, a battery-powered radio, flashlights, extra clothing, and blankets for employees. Also be sure your office has a cache of commonly used professional diagnostic or treatment equipment, e.g., vaginal speculums, wound care supplies, pediatric antipyretic medications, or whatever else is appropriate for your practice setting.
- Make a phone tree. Having a call-down list of employees, if appropriate, is also a good idea. Checking in with each employee to be sure they each have personal disaster plans is also a responsible move as an employer.
- Know your building safety or escape plan. Office-based practices should develop and inform employees of their safety or escape plans, including information such as getting under tables or desks during the active phase of an earthquake, how to evacuate the building in case of emergency, establishing a reassembly point outside the building where the staff can meet to check and be sure everyone is safely evacuated, teaching staff how to use a fire extinguisher, and so forth.
- Educate your patients. Leave educational materials about disaster preparedness in the office waiting room. Make sure patients—especially those who are caregivers—are educated on preparedness during routine office visits.