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Natural disasters can come without notice, but with today's high-tech communication devices and improvements in predicting weather, we often receive warning. When you learn bad weather is on its way, there are immediate steps you should take.

  • Overview
  • Preserve History
  • Protect Equipment
  • Secure the Landscape
  • Secure the Structure


Of course, you will react differently if floodwaters are rising than if a major heat wave is moving in. You will have more time to prepare for a hurricane than a sudden tornado. In every case, your first priority is always the health, safety and well-being of your staff and patients—and yourself. Weigh your efforts to preserve your property and its contents against the risks of physical harm. If you are ordered to evacuate, don't hesitate!

Use your Disaster Response Manual and take it with you when you lock up your office. Everyone on your staff should know their assignments. Don't worry about overreacting. It is better to take unnecessary precautions than to wish you had prepared. This simple checklist will help you prioritize your activity. It's easy to customize your plan for the type of weather expected and the time you have to get ready.

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Preserve History

  • Perform a last-minute backup of computer data. If you have been performing periodic backups and have stored copies of them along with the disks necessary to rebuild your system, you will only need to copy those files with recent activity.
  • Try to take your terminal with you. If you can't, unplug it, wrap it securely in heavy duty plastic and store it in an elevated place, such as on a desk. If your computer sits on the floor, do not leave it there, in case your office floods.
  • Secure your appointment book and take it with you.
  • Cover all filing cabinets and file shelving with plastic tarps and secure with duct tape as best you can. Remember, a disaster does not necessarily release you from Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Regulations. Do everything possible to preserve the confidentiality of patient records. You are required by law to save medical records to whatever extent possible.
  • Protect X rays, photos and dental models as much as possible. Pay particular attention to items that are susceptible to water, sunlight and temperature extremes.
  • Remove irreplaceable items, such as certificates and licenses.

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Protect Equipment

  • Lock up and secure any industrial or medical device that contains radioactive material.
  • Unplug all electrical equipment.
  • Wrap examination chairs with heavy plastic. If you are in a flood-prone area, elevate furniture or, if possible, move it to a higher floor.
  • Instruments and many stainless steel items can be sterilized and are not likely to be damaged. Bundle them in paper, secure them with tape and place them in drawers or storage cabinets.

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Secure the Landscape

  • Remove portable signs and landscape ornaments from the yard and parking areas.
  • Roll up canvas awnings and secure them with vinyl rope or clothesline.
  • De-activate automatic sprinkler systems.

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Secure the Structure

  • Deploy hurricane shutters or board up your windows. Remember, taping windows only helps to keep glass from flying about—it won't prevent it from breaking, or help keep water out. The boards you install are only as good as the fasteners that secure them. A loosely nailed board is just one more projectile in high wind. Use screws or specially designed hurricane fasteners.
  • If possible, shut off valves that control water supplies. Hopefully, you already have consulted your local natural gas supplier and know what to do with applicable control devices.
  • Lock interior doors.
  • Post contact information on exterior doors. If you do not have a waterproof sign, wrap it in plastic and tape or nail it in an easy-to-see location. In a hurricane, you can always use indelible marker on a board.

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Thank you to the Florida Dental Association Link opens in separate window. Pop-up Blocker may need to be disabled. andFlorida Dental Health Foundation for providing significant contributions to this content, which were funded in part from the American Dental Association Foundation