Emergency planning and disaster recovery planning in the dental office

You and your dental staff may need to act quickly to safeguard yourselves, your patients or your community following a natural or man-made emergency. Emergencies are mainly local in nature and can result from mudslides, earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, avalanche, floods and tornadoes or from non‑natural incidents involving transportation accidents, power failure, gas leaks, structural collapse, detonated bombs, chemical spills, radiation release from a nuclear power station or from bodily harm and trauma caused by workplace violence.

The ADA has compiled the following resources for our members affected by hurricanes and tropical storms:

The basics of an Emergency Action Plan

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency that was created by Congress in 1970 to protect workers from hazards in the workplace. OSHA specifically requires employers with 11 or more employees to have a written Emergency Action Plan for individuals involved in providing fire prevention, emergency medical or evaluation assistance. In an emergency, all personnel should know their role and where to go if shelter must be sought, as well as escape routes and shutdown procedures. A written Emergency Action Plan according to OSHA should include (OSHA 1910 Subpart L, Fire Protection):

  • An alarm system that is audible within the work environment
  • Escape procedures and routes (include a map, if necessary)
  • Procedures to account for all employees when evacuation is complete
  • Rescue and medical duties of employees who perform them
  • Identify likely hazards (hazard assessment/risk evaluation)
  • How to report fires and other emergencies
  • Whom to contact for more information
Update the plan at least annually and communicate changes to employees. Other key points
  • New employees should be made aware of the plan
  • In general, all employees should be alerted when their duties under the plan change and whenever the plan changes overall
  • The written Emergency Response Plan should document all training and review sessions, but it’s not required
  • Drills and interactive training that reference the plan are a great way to teach employees about their responsibilities and what to do in actual emergencies
  • After initial training, there should be periodic retraining
  • Remember to check the functioning of emergency equipment according to a schedule

New York University College of Dentistry has developed an action plan for tornado disasters. The emergency preparedness documents will give you tips and advice to prepare for and recover after a disaster:

Emergency management is the process of preparing for, mitigating, responding to and recovering from an emergency. Take the time to keep your patients, yourself and your staff safe in the event of an emergency.

For additional information necessary training for and documentation of Emergency Preparedness, visit the OSHA publication “Principal Emergency Response and Preparedness Requirements and Guidance.”

You may also download the ADA publication, Emergency Planning and Disaster Recovery in the Dental Office.