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Navigating Disrupted Dental Practice Operations

Wildfires are increasingly a threat to homes and businesses as climate change affects the length and scope of fire season. TDIC’s risk management experts offer guidance on the essential steps to take in case of practice closure due to wildfires or other natural disasters.

In the event your dental practice was closed or interrupted due to wildfires, there are essential steps to take when it comes to managing patient care, facilitating a possible move to a temporary location and connecting with staff.

Managing Patient Care

If your practice is impacted and you are unable to see patients, be prepared to handle emergency care needs in the following ways:

  • Make arrangements with colleagues in the surrounding area who may be able to accommodate emergency referrals or who are willing to accept a temporary time-sharing arrangement to occupy their office during off-hours, which will allow you to resume at least partial patient care until your office is operational.
  • If referring patients to another colleague, document the discussions with your patients and the courses of actions recommended, such as prescribing medications, referring to a colleague or advising to go the nearest hospital.
  • If a patient is referred to another colleague, follow up on the status of the referral to determine if the patient was seen and, if so, that services were rendered.
  • Determine what services you can perform via teledentistry until your practice is restored.
  • Make a plan for contacting patients to reschedule appointments until the practice reopens.

Making a Temporary Move

If you decide to practice at an alternate location, address these liability and logistical considerations:

  • Be prepared to provide proof of professional liability and workers’ compensation insurance to the practice owner.
  • Discuss office security, such as keys and alarm code, and who will have access (i.e., dental assistants, office manager, etc.) during which times and days of the week.
  • Determine the best arrangement for directing deliveries, calls and/or mail to the temporary location.
  • Create a checklist of the items, such as instruments and supplies, that you bring into the temporary location to ensure these items are returned to your office at the end of the arrangement.
  • Notify patients of your temporary location through signage at your office (if applicable), phone messages and your answering service. Update the information on your office’s website and social media accounts.
  • Alert your local dental society of your temporary location.
  • Contact the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Diversion Control Division, for assistance with your DEA-registered address relocation.

Connecting with Staff

If your dental practice is closed due to the risk or impact of wildfires, here are things to keep in mind regarding staff:

  • Establish a preferred, consistent method of communication with your dental team.
  • Capture alternate contact information for staff who may be affected or away from the area.
  • Reach out to staff to learn if they have been impacted by the wildfires and ensure that they and their families have been able to get to a place of safety. Determine when and if they are able to return to work.
  • Assign a lead point of contact for staff questions so that you as an employer/ owner don’t have to field every call.
  • Make every effort to stay in touch with your team on a regular basis. Keep them informed of any developments, such as anticipated length of office temporary closure, recovery efforts and continuity plans.
  • Assign remote work duties to employees, if possible.
  • Remember that employers are responsible to pay employees for all hours worked. TDIC’s Risk Management Advice Line can further advise on wage-and-hour issues.
  • If you are aware of a missing staff member or patient, don’t hesitate to contact the local county fire department or the police. Comply with requests for records if the entity or individual who requests the information can verify that they have legal standing to do so.

Finding Resources and Support

The loss of life and devastating damage caused by wildfires are heartbreaking to say the least. Thousands have been affected as the fires ravaged their lives — destroying homes, businesses, schools and entire communities. In recent years, several TDIC policyholder dentists and their staff members have lost their homes.

TDIC’s experts are readily available to provide guidance and resources during these times of disruption and uncertainty. If you have questions about your coverage or policies, contact your trusted TDIC advisor.

In addition, TDIC’s Risk Management experts have created a wildfire resource page to aid policyholders in understanding coverage, preparing practices and safely responding to disruption caused by wildfires. Contact TDIC to review your coverage options or learn more about managing your risks. Additional information on preparing for an emergency can be found on the Federal Emergency Management Agency website.

TDIC’s Risk Management Advice Line is a benefit to TDIC policyholders. To schedule a consultation with an experienced risk management analyst, visit or call 1.877.269.8844.

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