When severe weather, such as a hurricane or snowstorm, is heading your way, you can be sure your veterinary clinic’s phones will be ringing non-stop as your customers seek advice or make boarding arrangements. Planning for such events shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought, because many preparations take significant time and money to put into place. In addition, all staff members need to know the proper protocols for animal care during severe weather, which takes forethought and training. Your customers depend on you in all sorts of ways – we feel it’s our obligation, as the Animal Clinic of Morris Plains, to offer assurance to our customers and protection for our patients, no matter how frisky Mother Nature gets.
Our preparations for severe weather encompass our facilities, staff and patients.
Naturally, a clinic housing sick patients (human or animal) must be able to withstand harsh weather and cope with secondary problems, such as loss of electricity. A sudden loss of power could be catastrophic to any animals undergoing surgery or being electronically monitored. A sudden loss of light can also upset some of the animals. For this reason, we have purchased a very large propane-powered generator and installed it on our roof.
Our generator can supply electricity for much of the clinic. In the event of a power outage, we do not have to rely on gasoline powered, portable generators – as we had done in the past – so gasoline shortages don’t affect us either.
We have prioritized the electrician’s task list so that, in the event of a power outage, our most critical areas would be covered. These areas include:
• -our well pump, so that we have an uninterrupted supply of water
• -our lab equipment
• -the refrigerators that have many of our drugs and vaccines
• -lighting in critical areas (like surgery)
• -our computer system
• -heating and AC
We also have on hand an adequate supply of emergency lighting, flashlights, batteries, candles, etc.
Another problem people may not think about is snow removal. It has taken us many years to find a snow plowing service that understands our unique needs. Our biggest need is around-the-clock plowing, since we never close. Our hospital is full of animals and the staff must be able to gain access no matter what the conditions. Snow is a big concern to us because we have a very steep driveway. In fact, during our last big snowstorm our plowing service made five separate appearances in order to keep us open and accessible.
Our clinic employs a veterinary technician who lives on premises so that someone is always on hand no matter what the conditions. Also, each of our staff members is explicitly told “we do not offer snow days.” Our staff understands that the animals must be cared for under all conditions. Kennel workers, technicians and doctors knowingly accept their responsibilities to come into work despite severe weather. In the rare circumstances that predicted weather will be so severe that travel might be impossible, staff member spend the night at the hospital to be sure care will be available to our patients.
Adequate food, medications, equipment and personnel are always on hand so that even if we have a prolonged weather event, we are well-positioned to provide care to our patients. We have more than 40 heated indoor runs so that dogs have a comfortable place to relieve themselves, even if they cannot be walked outside.
Ask Questions Early
We are proud of the precautions we’ve taken to handle emergency conditions and to provide safe shelter to our patients. If you are setting up or evaluating an animal clinic, make sure to ask the tough questions about emergency response as soon as possible. Now more than ever, severe weather can happen at any time. You owe to yourself, your staff and your patients to offer safe and secure care all the time, but especially when the weather turns mean.
Dr. Paul has a strong interest in avian and exotic animal medicine and surgery, as well as small animal internal medicine and surgery.
He has provided services for numerous breeders, kennels, aviaries, and mini zoos.