Lessons from Lahaina: Be Prepared

August 15, 2023

Aloha dentists,

Lessons for dentists and dental practices on emergency preparations As many of you know, there was a huge disaster in Lahaina, Hawaii. I do know of 2 dentists who lost their home and dental office to the fire. It seems like yesterday that I stood in front of this office with the team taking a photo and now it's gone. My heart hurts for this community.

My family also lost their homes and jobs in the Paradise Fires in CA. We learned so much from their tragedy to help us in case we have one too. Don't think "Oh well they have insurance". It's not as peachy as it sounds. It is still a huge financial and emotional loss.

Many other dentists have been through tragedies that require to rebuild and such. This is hard for me to write about so soon and I want to respect those locals who are grieving such losses. However, I also want you to know this could happen to anyone and I have some tips for you to consider.

  1. Evaluate your insurance policy. You may have purchased more things or gained more value and need to increase your benefits. Assess potential risks (live near a flood zone/fire dry area, etc.) KNOW YOUR COVERAGE. Some may not cover an "act of God" caused by tornado, wind, tsunami, etc. Get comprehensive coverage...If filing a claim, will it bring it up to today's code? Will it provide funds to replace new or used? What about the business interruption and loss of income? Be sure to research the reputation of your insurance company.
  2. Video tape EVERYTHING. Add more photos.video and pictures as you buy more shiny objects, upgrade, etc. Don't forget to get the outdoors (solar panels/air conditioning/etc.) Talk through your video listing what you see and about what you paid. Your insurance will ask you to make a detailed list of items and what you think they are worth. Make sure this is saved to the cloud and a hard drive. A fireproof safe only works in small fires, not this kind.
  3. Back up EVERYTHING. Lots of I.T. or dentists only have patient charts backed up because images are too large or quickbooks are too big, etc. Don't think like that. Back up everything. Pay a professional company to back up the entire dental practice.
  4. Don't assume "it's all on my charge card". Many banks only save statements for 2 years. Just because you bought something at Costco, Home Depot, or Bed Bath and Beyond on your charge card doesn't mean it's for business. The ins claim adjuster and the IRS expect actual receipts that have itemized things you purchased. Scan ALL RECEIPTS, contracts, equipment loans, etc in your cloud too.
  5. Implement Safety Protocols with your team. Tell them where to meet if you have to escape. Have emergency contact phone numbers in your employee files and save them off site. Make sure they know their safety comes first and don't approach big flames.
  6. Be sure to have effective tools (sprinkler system, fire extinguisher, smoke detector, etc.) to save your office.
  7. We know it's embarrassing to ask for help but you will need help and support. Make sure you allow it, accept it, and appreciate it. People want to help. Insurance companies are slow to pay, so you may need a gofundme or to work out of someone else's dental office. It's O.K.
  8. Once a tragedy an insurance company or investor may throw money at you...WAIT. You have been through a tragedy and may need an attorney or time to process the information. Don't be taken advantage of. But do file your claim as quick as possible. Some companies go bankrupt or spread little money out as they go. So the key is to file asap, communicate, document, and follow up.
  9. Document Document Document

If anyone wants an official site to donate to the Lahaina Wildfire Relief, Hawaii Community Foundation or to dentists, you are welcome to DM me. There are a couple links on my personal FB page and in the comments.

I pray that no one ever has to go through a tragedy and that you are as prepared as possible if you do.

Heidi Mount

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