Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have caused devastation in Texas and Florida, while Maria has caused catastrophic damage to homes and businesses throughout Puerto Rico, causing billions of dollars in damage. Medical facilities in these disaster areas have experienced extensive flood damage, potentially risking not just the quality of care but the health data of thousands of people.

While providers are focused on helping those in need, it’s important to get operations up and running as quickly as possible so as not to irrevocably harm the business side of the practice.

The following tips offer advice on how to proceed with restoring your office as soon as possible, once it’s safe to return to your offices.

1. Address worker health and safety concerns

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers many resources and guidelines for keeping workers safe during and after a disaster. Water and wind damage can aid the spread of disease, create electrical hazards, increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and more.

For example, if your office lost power and you need to use a generator, the CDC warns that it must be kept outside and away from vents, windows and doors. The exhaust from a generator contains carbon monoxide that is invisible and odorless. Inhalation can be fatal within minutes. Likewise, if you believe a downed power line may present an electrical hazard, do not go near it. Instead, wait for the authorities to clear the area of hazards before proceeding.

After a flood, mold becomes a serious health risk, as well. Follow the CDC’s recommendations for assessing and handling mold-related health hazards.

Flood damage increases the risk of disease, electrical hazards and mold-related illnesses.Flood damage increases the risk of disease, electrical hazards and mold-related illnesses.

2. Follow the plan

If you created a disaster response plan for your practice, you’re off to a good start. Now it’s time to follow through on that plan and reassess the situation based on the outcome of the natural disaster.

When you return to your offices, one of the first things you should do is collect photographic evidence for your insurance provider. Take pictures of everything that’s been damaged – from the structure itself to the equipment and supplies within. After you have accurate documentation, it’s time to meet with the other stakeholders and draw up a list of priorities that reflects your established plan and respects the limitations imposed by the disaster.

3. Seek out disaster assistance and relief

In the wake of a natural disaster, it’s important to remember you are not alone and there are resources in place to help your practice recover. The federal government has established an intuitive, anonymous questionnaire to help you locate resources to assist your recovery efforts.

The U.S. Small Business Administration has also developed a disaster assistance page that can help you discover if you are eligible for an SBA loan deferment, SBA disaster loans or business counseling.

For tax relief information, read the Disaster Resource Guide for Individuals and Businesses, a comprehensive document prepared by the Internal Revenue Service. There you’ll find worksheets, recommendations and guidelines on how to assess damage and replace destroyed tax documents.

4. Contact your EHR vendor for support

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If you believe patient data was lost during the disaster, reach out to your EHR provider to learn more about how your data is stored and if your data is backed up in another location. If you use a cloud data storage solution, you will likely be able to completely restore your system.

Damaged and destroyed electronic equipment will make it difficult to get your practice up and running smoothly, but your provider may be able to assist you in restoring lost assets.

If your practice has been affected by a hurricane or other natural disaster, contact Tangible Solutions today to learn more about how we can help you rebuild.