Best Practices

Key Questions for Contingency Planning in Your Pharmacy

Severe weather can impact your pharmacy operations at any time. The winter season is a good time to evaluate what preparedness plans you have in place.

Editor's Note: This article was written and scheduled prior to the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian. Our thoughts are with all those who have been, and continue to be, impacted by this event.

Power outages are on the rise in the United States according to a recent article from CNN, with weather-related outages leading the way.

Severe weather and other events can impact your pharmacy operations at any time of year, but as the winter season approaches it’s beneficial to evaluate what preparedness plans you have in place in your pharmacy.

Contingency plans help you respond to unexpected events that impact your pharmacy operations.

The answers to these questions can help you with either goal.

How much disruption can your business tolerate while still remaining operational?

This is all about establishing your minimal operational requirements. Can you stay open if power goes down? What about internet? What services can you keep running and what will you have to adjust? How many team members do you need to have in the pharmacy to continue operations? Setting these parameters will help you and your team make key decisions in the moment.

Do you have appropriate emergency supplies?

First aid kits might be a given, but what about other key supplies? Here are some things you might want to consider having set aside for pharmacy use.

    • Flashlights/lanterns and batteries for all
    • Solar or battery-powered calculators for transaction processing
    • Paper receipt books (yes, this is old fashioned; but it will help you stay accurate/accountable and allow you to record sales in your POS system after the outage)
    • Parking lot de-icer
    • Portable charging blocks and a selection of charging cables for cell phones
    • A stash of snacks and bottled water for your employees
    • Cash drawer keys (you should probably know where these are all the time, but some spares in an emergency kit might not be a bad idea, either)

Do you have important numbers written down?

Make sure you have a spot where you keep important contact numbers printed out. This way if you need to contact team members, service providers, community partners, etc. you have them on hand and easily accessible. This list might also include phone numbers for credit card authorization by phone.

Do you know what steps are recommended by your technology providers?

This should include items like battery backup recommendations (hint: plug all your PCs into a functioning battery backup) and safe shutdown recommendations in the event of a power outage.

Do you have a backup for important data?

Getting back to normal operations after a disruption is important. Having a backup of your systems in place will help you recover in the event that severe weather leads to a system failure. Your technology providers can help you set up automated backups that may be as simple as a USB flash drive that’s changed out each day and secured on site or taken off site.

How will you communicate changes in services to patients?

You may not have all communication avenues open to you, but putting a communications protocol in place will be helpful. You can go as far as having text prepared for social posts and emails as well as pre-printed signage for your doors.

Do you have a plan in place for staffing?

Staffing is an important part of contingency planning. Have backup plans in place for key team members that could be out and make sure your team knows who to go to for decisions.

Bringing it all together.

Make sure you document all aspects of your contingency plan and communicate key elements with your team. Schedule a yearly training to go through disaster preparedness and share where employees can find relevant documentation and supplies.

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