WO asked Shannon Kleinwolterink, practice administrator for New Bern Family Eye Care and Pamlico Family Eye Care, for her best advice in preparing for an impending storm.
Kleinwolterink shared her practice’s storm policy for its three office North Carolina locations, where she works with Cathy Doty, OD; Mark Leary, OD; Shawn Doty, OD; and Kimberly Oncavage, OD.
We put this policy in place a few years ago after Hurricane Irene and an atypical snow storm for our area that followed that winter. It helped us set a streamlined communication protocol, because the doctors and I were being bombarded with worried phone calls and text messages from staff asking what we were going to do.
Storm is announced: Storm is in the area and the doctors and myself will help watch and keep the staff informed.
Timeline for closure: The doctor owners will make this decision. This includes preparations that need to be made at each office for protection of the computers, building, etc.
• We contact our IT group to help us secure our network, server and backups just in case.
Timeline for opening: The doctor owners and myself communicate often throughout a storm. The offices are either OPEN, CLOSED or on STANDBY. Standby means that all staff will need to be “on call” to go in to their respective offices within 1 hour of being notified by me.
• Employees who live in areas that are most affected by bad weather (hurricane/snow/ice) are sent home first to ensure their safety. We also allow an employee to leave or not come in if they feel their safety may be compromised.
• When the decision is made to close the office or open on a delay, we start a phone tree. Each employee is asked to contact the next person on the list, starting with the longest tenured employee.
Notification of patients: I usually appoint one person from each office to take home schedules for the next business day, or more, depending on the storm. This designated person stays in contact with me throughout the storm period. If the office is open or closed, the patients will be notified. If we are on standby, patients are notified that when we are open, we will call them. To make sure our patients are always “in the know,” we utilize our IP phone system to manage and change office recordings as needed.
The storm policy also addresses concerns from employees in regards to closures and being paid, so the practice put in place the following guidelines to be fair to all.
• If the offices are closed due to the storm, full-time staff will be paid for the day missed. However, the day missed due to storm CANNOT put the staff member into overtime pay.
• If the offices are open, but a staff member does not come to work, the staff member may take a day without pay or use a vacation day. If the offices are on standby, and the offices open, all staff is expected to arrive within one hour of being called. The staff members who comply will be paid in full for the day, even if they only come in for part of the day. A maximum of 2 days will be paid to full time staff, per calendar year, for office closings due to bad weather.
• Staff may use vacation pay thereafter, or elect to go without pay. Part-time employees will not get paid for office closings due to bad weather.