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Welcome to the only e-Newsletter for public health and related professionals dedicated to the use of automated reminder messaging. 
Welcome to WARMRegards, the only e-newsletter for public health and related professionals dedicated to the use of automated reminder messaging.

We report how other professionals are using technology to increase participation and improve the delivery of services. We report on new developments in technology, applications and federal, state and local issues. We report on real-world experiences regarding appointment reminders, EBT benefits and other applications. We highlight best practices and tips-of-the-trade, and report actual outcomes. A new issue will be sent not more frequently than once-per-month.

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How to Prepare your WIC Clinic for a Disaster

 
EF5 tornados, “perfect storm” hurricanes, epic wildfires, historical flooding, what’s next? It seems those once-in-a-century disasters seem to be hitting every corner of our nation. Is your WIC clinic or State Agency prepared for an emergency?  
 
Here are some points to consider:
  • Be Proactive: Gather all necessary contacts and information in advance. Create checklists. Learn the WIC policy regarding missing documentation, homeless/displaced participants, allowable WIC expenses, and emergency vendor purchase guidelines.   
  • Prevention: Where advance notice is available, take measures to secure information, protect hardware, find alternate locations, and back up WIC data.
  • Communication: After the disaster, collaborate with retail headquarters to determine food supplies, particularly non-perishable food packages. Work with your state agency to redirect resources and most importantly communicate with your WIC participants.
All of your advance preparation is null if your WIC participants have no way of knowing where to go for benefits, which stores have food, and how to stay safe when eating and drinking. They may have lost their food or EBT cards and think they do not qualify for any further assistance (please check your state replacement policy). It’s especially important to encourage moms to continue breastfeeding and make infant formula availability a high priority. 
 
From personal experience living in the Joplin, Missouri, vicinity during the 2011 EF5 tornado, we learned first-hand that phone calls were extremely difficult /almost impossible for several days after the disaster. However, texting worked amazingly well. Everybody was texting, as it was the only reliable form of communication. Consider how you will text everybody important information. If your autodialer is on site, will it still work and how will you use it?
 
For several days following the Joplin tornado, travel into affected areas was limited to residents and emergency responders only. If your WIC clinic is located inside a disaster zone, you may not be allowed to visit the clinic, so be sure to store your emergency contacts, WIC policy, assessment checklists, and response procedures somewhere off site.   
 
Thankfully, technology gives us many more options than in times past. Non-protected data, such as your SA, LA, and vendor contacts, your WIC policy, and your emergency checklist can be stored in the cloud, which will allow you access from any location. There are many cloud storage services which are free of charge for a certain amount of data. 
 
There are also cloud autodialer options. As a Business Partner with your WIC agency, a cloud autodialer vendor will already have your most recent list of all active participants stored in secure off-site locations. Technology is available for you to create a message by text, phone, and/or email, and launch it to all of your clients from any location with Internet or using a smart phone app. 
 
Using a cloud autodialer vendor alleviates worries of broken or non-accessible autodialers and relying on media sources to spread the word to your WIC moms. It is VERY IMPORTANT to check with the autodialer and determine how many facilities they have, what is their volume capacity and how data is backed up. If a vendor has only one facility they present the same risk as you have with the autodialer at your clinic. 
 
Where do you start?  Whether you do or don’t have a disaster response plan, now is a good time to review and prepare. 
  1. Contacts: LA’s need current contacts for their Executive Director, WIC Director, Disaster Coordinator(s), SA contacts, and other local essential personnel such as your local health department and emergency responders. SA’s need the SA disaster staff, at least one LA contact, USDA Regional contacts, infant formula manufacturers, and vendor s, particularly corporate offices for state retailers. 
  2. Policies: Review and store the FNS Detailed Policy Guidance for States http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/disasterpolicyguidance.htm and your local state disaster benefits policy and allowable costs during an emergency.
  3. Alternate Location:  If your region is affected by a disaster, it is helpful to have prepared, in advance, two alternate locations to conduct business.
  4. Breastfeeding Support: Collect contacts for statewide lactation support and SA breastfeeding coordinators so this can be provided to breastfeeding moms who need extra counseling and encouragement during this difficult time.
  5. Physical Location Protection: Create a checklist to physically secure the hardware and data at your local clinic (when there is advance notice). This includes unplugging all equipment, plastic, and duct tape to protect from the elements, how you will back up the data, how you will remove files with protected information, and where you will store EBT cards.
  6. Emergency Drills: When there is no advance notice, have regular staff meetings to plan out emergency protocols and evacuation procedures. What is everybody’s role, where are the emergency materials, such as the fire extinguisher, flashlights, first aid kits, water, etc. Think about how you will manage the participants to avoid panic and insure everybody’s safety.
  7. Assessment: Create an emergency assessment list or keep a copy of your state’s assessment (if available) form on the cloud. Use this to determine the extent of the damage, how many participants are affected, is there safe drinking water, which retailers are affected, and how long services will be disrupted.
  8. Processing Affected Participants: Coordinate with your state agency to begin procedures to provide benefits to affected applicants. Prioritize levels of expedited service – those who are homeless and displaced receive the highest priority. Determine the food package which best meets your local criteria in accordance with SA policies. Give special attention to infant formulas and safe drinking water.
  9. Communication: Within the first 24 hours, if possible, initiate text communication with your clients, if even to simply state that you are currently assessing all options and will soon provide further emergency instructions. Give breastfeeding moms state consultant contacts. Update your website and Facebook page, and offer a link or smart phone app for clients to securely update their contacts, so they can continue to receive critical information, keeping in mind that many will receive new phones from emergency programs. Look for autodialer vendors who can accommodate this. 
For more information on autodialer options which meet all the important criteria outlined in this article, please visit our website at www.usnlive.com .
 
For past W.A.R.M Regards issues, such as “How to Use Personalized Text to Retain Caseload” and “How to Use Text Messaging to Reduce Child Obesity,” Please go to http://www.usnlive.com/resources.html.
 
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