Is Your Medical Practice Prepared For An Emergency or a Disaster?

Written by Scott Needle, MD, FAAP

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.

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.

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 want to hear how we can help your practice become better prepared.

The AAP’s Disaster Preparedness Advisory Council needs your help.

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.

I also encourage you to visit the AAP’s Children & Disasters page at which is a great resource and is updated often.

Editorial Note: To contact Dr. Needle please visit the “contact” page on this site or click here

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