This week I’m keeping one eye on the weather forecast here in Olympia. It is Washington so who really knows… but there may be snow on the horizon. Although I love an afternoon of frolicking in the snow with my husky, I’m very aware of all the not so fun side effects that follow that first dusting. But even if there isn’t snow next week, the ice is getting ever thicker on my windshield each morning, rain is falling harder and the wind is shaking the windows at my house just a little more often. This time of year, severe weather becomes more prevalent across the country. At home we stock up on batteries and make sure we have gas for the generator.
But what happens when the lights go out at your pharmacy? Do you shut the doors and lose out on business? Not everyone prepares properly for severe weather and many local pharmacies carry supplies that people will need so being open during severe weather and power outages can be very important to your customer base and community. Of course your transaction processing won’t be as efficient as usual, but there are a few things you can do to keep things running as smoothly as possible under less than ideal circumstances.
- Call your credit card processor to talk about emergency processing options. Your processor can provide you with phone numbers for each network’s voice authorization so that you can verify credit card transactions. They can also set you up with a manual card swipe option (commonly known as knuckle busters) so that you can take an imprint of the card for processing through your point-of-sale system when the lights come back up. These items will also come in handy if your internet goes down, hindering your ability to accept credit cards.
- Get battery or solar powered lanterns to light your store. Your pharmacy can still be an inviting environment to shop in, even when the lights aren’t on. Make it safer for elderly customers to navigate by having some of these basic emergency supplies ready to go.
- Make sure you have the keys to your cash drawers. Most cash drawers are receipt printer driven, so when the power goes out, there’s no way to prompt them to open unless you have the keys. Double check to make sure you have working keys to all of your cash drawers so that they can all be manually opened as needed.
- Invest in some basic transaction supplies. Solar or battery powered calculators and receipt books are a must for doing business when the power goes out. It may be old fashioned but they’ll help to make sure your clerks stay accurate and accountable. Purchase receipt books with carbon copy pages so that you can ring the transactions through your POS system when the power comes back on. This will help to ensure that your inventory and cash balancing remain accurate. You may also want to consider assigning a specific drawer to each clerk so that they alone are accountable for any shortages in the till.
- Make sure all of your computers are on functioning battery backups. A good battery backup should give you about 10 minutes of continued use when the power goes down. However, this doesn’t mean that you should keep ringing transactions until the screen goes black. The battery backup should allow you to finish whatever transaction you are working on and then use the proper steps to safely shut down the PC. This will help you to avoid power surges that could damage your system.
- Run daily backups of your point-of-sale system. No matter how well you prepare, sometimes severe weather gets the best of your computers. Getting back to normal after a power outage is just as important as being there to help your customers during the outage. However, you won’t be able to do this if one of your PC’s fails and you don’t have a good back up. This is a very easy process to set up. Just get a couple of USB Flash drives, and then contact RMS to have the automated backup set to run each night. Every day before you leave the store, swap the drives and take yesterday’s backup with you or place it in a fireproof/waterproof safe.
While I hope that the winter months are uneventful for you, it’s important to make sure that your pharmacy is prepared. If there’s anything special you do in your pharmacy to survive severe weather and power outages, please share below.
Karen Deckard came to RMS with a background in retail and customer service, and was initially brought on board as a Sales Assistant and managed IIAS certifications for RMS's pharmacy POS customers. Today, Karen works as a Customer Success Manager, striving to provide independent and institutional pharmacies with the tools and resources they need to succeed in today's competitive pharmacy market.