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Guidance for protecting your practice during wildfires

Wildfires are not contained to a single season or region, inflicting devastating damage on homes, businesses and entire communities. If you or your practice are affected by a fire, our dedicated advisors, analysts and team are all readily available to help.

Fire preparation and recovery

If your practice is affected and you are unable to see patients, you can prepare to handle patient emergencies in the following ways: 

  • Make arrangements with colleagues in the surrounding area who might be able to accommodate emergency referrals or who are willing to accept a temporary time-sharing arrangement to occupy their office off-hours, so that you can resume at least partial patient care until your office is operational. 
  • If referring patients to another colleague, document discussions with patients and the course of action taken, such as prescribing medications, referring to colleagues, advising to go the nearest hospital, etc. 
  • If a patient was referred to another colleague, follow up on the status of the referral to determine if the patient was seen and, if so, the services rendered. 

Additional Resources 

  • Navigating Disrupted Dental Practice Operations. In this article, TDIC’s risk management experts share essential steps to take in case of practice closure due to wildfires or other natural disasters, including advice for connecting with staff and managing patient care.  
  • Practice Interruption and Mutual Aid Guidelines. This reference guide provides information on mutual aid agreements and guidance in the event of a dentist’s disability or death. 
  • Referral Letters. A set of three downloadable sample letters for referring a patient, referral replies or findings and patient summary. 
  • Teledentestry Form. Download this notice and consent form for a patient’s participation in a teledentistry system. 
  • Essentials of Patient Record and Documentation. This on-demand course offers tips to improve documentation and records, a vital step in ensuring safety for patients in case care needs to be temporarily transferred to another practice. 

If your dental practice is closed due to the wildfires, keep connecting with staff in mind:  

  • Make every effort to stay in touch with all dental team members on a regular basis to keep them informed of any developments such as anticipated length of office closure, recovery and continuity plan. 
  • Establish preferred method of communication with staff. 
  • Assign a point of contact and/or alternate contact to facilitate staff’s ability to reach their employer and each other. 

If your property is in the potential path of a wildfire use these tips to prioritize safety and reduce damage. 

Before a wildfire: 

  • Limit the fire’s reach by closing windows, vents, doors and blinds. Turn off any gas sources that could fuel the fire. 
  • Lights should be left on so firefighters can see the building under dark and smoky conditions. 
  • Shut off HVAC systems to prevent outside smoke from entering the building and causing preventable damage. 

After a wildfire: 

  • Take photos of damages if law enforcement, fire personnel and city officials have allowed access to the building. 
  • Provide copies of inventory lists to your insurance adjuster. 
  • Do not start cleaning or property removal until the loss site has been inspected by your insurance company. 

Additional Resources 

If you need to practice at a temporary location, stay organized through the change:  

  • Be prepared to provide proof of insurance (professional liability and workers’ compensation coverages) to the practice owner. 
  • Discuss office access (key, alarm code), who will have access (assistant, office manager, etc.) and schedule (times/days of the week). 
  • Consider arrangements for directing mail deliveries, calls and other communications to the temporary location. 
  • Create a list of items such as instruments, charts and any supplies that you may be bringing into the temporary location to ensure that these items are returned to your office at the end of the arrangement. 
  • Notify patients of your temporary location via the following signage at your office (if applicable), answering service and phone messages. 
  • Alert the local dental society of your temporary location. 
  • Update the information on your office’s website and other social media accounts. 
  • Contact the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Diversion Control Division, for assistance with relocating your DEA registered address. 

Additional Resources 

If you are aware of a missing staff member or know of a missing patient: 

Contact the local county fire department or the police. 

Comply with any request for records as long as the entity or individual requesting the information can verify that they have legal standing to receive the requested information. 
Additional Resources 
Prepare Your Dental Practice for a Perpetual Wildfire Season. In this article, TDIC’s risk management experts offer advice for preparations against wildfires, including making an office escape plan. 

Workers Compensation Fundamentals for California Dentists. This free, on-demand course covers regulations specific to California, including your obligations and duties as an employer to employees during the claims process. 

Do you have sufficient coverage for emergencies?

Request a free policy review with an agent in your region.