Emergency plans are important both at home and at work and it is up to every shop owner or manager to make sure that the plans are up to date and fully understood by everyone who works or lives in the building the plan is developed for.
Are you prepared in the case of an emergency at your shop? Do you have an escape plan in case of fire, or a shelter plan in case of bad weather? Do you, and everyone who works in the shop, know where the location of all fire extinguishers is and how to use them? Do you understand how to properly administer Canine/Human CPR and basic first aid to a pet? Would you be able to contact the families of each pet in your care should there be a situation that destroys your records?
If you answered NO to any of these questions you are not prepared for emergencies adequately!
A recent case of a shop in West Windsor, NJ in which several dogs died despite the shop owners efforts to put out the fire and to rescue the dogs, made me redefine my escape and disaster preparation plans and to go over them again with my staff.
Here is a link to the story about that fire. http://trentonian.com/articles/2010/07/02/news/doc4c2d57087582a259999995.txt
At my shop, my biggest fear is fire. Even before the incident above, I was paranoid about the possibilty of a fire occuring at my shop. As a result of my paranoia I have three fire extinguishers in place; one in the kitchen, one in the grooming room and one in the drying area. I made sure they are larger than the fire department requires and are rated for all types of fires. I have them inspected twice a year even though the fire department only requires me to do it once a year. I also went so far as to buy several small, inexpensive fire extinguishers and we practiced with them last year. Since I have two more staffers now, it is time to do that again.
I have three wire crates in my truck at any given time, two inside, one in the back. If we have a fire we cannot extinguish quickly and we can get to the back door, we will simply “throw” the dogs out into the fenced area behind the shop and transfer them to the truck from there. If we cannot get to the back door, then we will carry as many as we can carry to the truck, and put them in there, loose if need be. We will sort out getting them into crates after we are all safely out of the shop. If you don't have a fenced in area at your shop, I strongly suggest trying to put one in for more reasons that fire safety. A portable kennel run can be placed around a back door to ensure dogs cannot get out of the shop if the door is opened and it will offer you a place to put dogs at least temporarily, in case of a fire or other major disaster. Check with your landlord and all fire regulations before installing one of course, but if it is possible, I strongly urge you to install one.
One of the first things I did in my shop was to “unstick” all the windows in the shop since they had all been painted shut. If we have to we can now open a window in each room and hand dogs out through the windows. This can be the key to getting out of a burning building as well. Sure you can throw something through the window to break it, but it is easier if you can just open it. There are now at least two means of escape in each room of my shop: a door and a window.
In case of a tornado or severe windstorm, I am very lucky to have a small hallway in the very center of the shop and a small bathroom with no windows. If we close the doors on the rooms that branch off the hallway we are completely protected from flying glass and debris. The dogs in the main rooms can be, if time allows, placed into the small bathroom until the storm passes. If not, they are all secured in heavy cage banks and airline carriers and should be able to withstand most damage, other than a direct hit by a tornado. I believe that even a tree crashing into the roof would be able to be withstood by my cage banks, but I do hope I never have to find out.
Now, as for contacting my clients in case of an emergency, I suppose that I could try to grab the computer off the desk as I run out the door, but I may not have enough time to do that, so I back up my files every night at home to my household computer, or at least I try to. I may not have any new client’s information on it, but I will have established client’s contact information available at my house and a simple phone call to my husband can have those numbers in a matter of minutes. If I had client information on cards I would try hard to grab the day’s cards when I left.
Basic first aid is something that every single groomer and bather should know. This would constitute CPR, rescue breathing and basic first aid. The Red Cross offers these classes and many trade shows have them at their shows as well. It is important to have a fully stocked First Aid kit for humans and pets as well as understanding how to use it. Especially after an emergency it could be critical to be able to assist both people and pets that are in need until professionals arrive to help.
Another thing I have done is to have an alarm system put in place. My alarm system automatically contacts fire and rescue personnel in the event of a fire or if you hit the panic button on the main controller. You can hit that button on your way out of the door and in a matter of minutes fire and police will be there to assist us. I realize this is not feasible for everyone, but if you can it is a great idea to have this type of alarm system in place. IN the event of a fire in the hours we are closed, our alarm will automatically sound and the fire department has our building layout on their computer, including where we house or boarders. They know where they are going to be so that they can access them easily and quickly.
After an emergency plan is developed it is imperative that all members of the staff understand what you have developed and make sure they understand their part in it. Make sure they all understand how to get out of the building no matter where they are. Make sure they are aware of fire extinguisher locations and how to use them. Post the escape routes and discuss them with each and every crew member. Have drills once a quarter or whenever a new person comes onboard to ensure they understand what to do in case of fire, flood or tornados.
All of this is critical to having a positive outcome in the event of an emergency. If we are prepared we can at least feel better knowing we did everything in our power to keep the pets entrusted to our care as safe as we possibly can.