DENTAL PRACTICE ARTICLES
Do You Have an Emergency Evacuation Plan?
Do you remember fire drills in school? Compliance with the Ministry of Labour’s Health and Safety Standards includes having an evacuation plan and it must be practiced. Hopefully an emergency situation won’t occur in your office, but you need to be prepared if one does. Dental office teams need to know what to do if an emergency should occur by determining and implementing strategies to minimize risk to employees, patients and the public during an emergency situation.
It is important to develop and publish an Emergency Plan for your office and ensure that all of your employees are trained and knowledgeable about the plan. In conjunction with fire and safety professionals, planning fire safety and evacuation procedures for all employees, and ensuring employees are trained in those procedures is the responsibility of the dentist and/or senior manager. The dentist must also communicate with local authorities to maintain the most current information available on the status of a declared emergency.
In addition to knowing where the emergency kit is kept , it should be kept up to date and someone who is also certified in administering first aid must be on staff at all times when you are seeing patients.. Employees must know what to do with the patients who are in the chairs and in the reception area, should a disaster occur. Also consider what steps should be taken if a child is in the chair and the parent is in the reception area. You need to know how to safely and calmly evacuate the patients and employees and have a meeting point once the office is vacated.
Begin by establishing strategies for communicating relevant information about an emergency, its location and what steps need to be taken. Everyone has a role to play and needs to know how to safely evacuate the premises and to assist the patients.
Establish a coding system, much like they use in hospitals to alert the staff about the type of emergency that is occurring. The codes should be kept near the telephone or communication system. All codes should be followed by the location of the emergency. Here is an example of some codes you may consider using:
“Code Red Op. 3” – – This means that there is a fire in Op. 3, call 911 – evacuate using both exits, meet at the pre-established meeting point, manager meets fire department to provide direction to the emergency responders.
“Code Blue – Op. 1” This means that there is a cardiac event or medical emergency in Op. 1 – call 911
“Code Green” – Environmental emergency – i.e. tornado, floor, etc. Patients and staff need to go to a safe location
“Code White – Op 2” This means that there is a violent patient in Op. 2 – call 911
(Please note that these are not official codes and are for demonstration purposes only.) You must also ensure that employees have easy and rapid access to emergency telephone contact numbers including your equipment technicians.
Dentists or managers are responsible for ensuring employees are familiar with the Emergency Plan(s) and receive appropriate training consistent with the requirements of those plans. Additionally dentists are responsible for selecting or appointing a Department/Team Lead Emergency Coordinator for their respective departments and ensuring that the Coordinator is fully knowledgeable and trained in the duties that arise from the Departmental Emergency Plan.
Department Emergency Coordinators are responsible for becoming knowledgeable about their Departmental Emergency Plan, periodically reviewing that plan and recommending any changes to make the plan more effective. Additionally, the Coordinator is responsible for directing and/or assisting coworkers in the effective handling of any emergency situations that may arise in their department.
All employees are responsible for following the protocols set out by the management or public authorities. All dental offices should review and update Emergency Plan(s) at least once each year, and make any changes deemed necessary. Each month at your team meetings, include a section to discuss health and safety in your office and always keep your Emergency Plan current.
Ensuring the safety of your patients and employees is the responsibility of the dentist. The fines for non-compliance with the Ministry of Labour’s Health and Safety Standards are extremely high. It pays to take the necessary steps to keep everyone safe. An emergency may never occur at your office, but if it does, be well prepared.
Author: Sandie Baillargeon