Business Continuity – one contractor’s experience…
Business Continuity – one contractor’s experience…
January 16, 2019
Dosthill Pharmacy Fire – November 2018 – By Carl Rose, Group Commercial Manager (Shiraz & Sons Ltd)
Just after 10pm, on Saturday 3rd November, I received a call from our security alarm company stating that the burglar alarm had been activated at our pharmacy in Dosthill. I assumed, that a spider had walked in front of the sensor, but nevertheless, travelled the 25 miles to Dosthill. As I drove down the High Street, I could see an orange glow coming from the general direction of the pharmacy – my heart sank – there was a huge fire!
Once I had managed to clear the Police and Fire Service cordons, I could see the extent of the scene. There were several fire engines, two platform ladders, ambulances and Police cars. The emergency services were already fighting the fire from above – the roof of the health centre had already been badly damaged with flames soaring upwards.
Our senior dispenser, Paula, had also been called, and was on scene helping the fire service. I immediately called our company director, Mr Ali Shiraz, who attended straight away. During the evening, alongside colleagues from both the doctor’s surgery and dental practice, we held 30 minute briefings with the fire commander and Police incident manager. We provided details of the pharmacy layout and access options.
We stayed on scene until around 2.30am, when the fire seemed to be almost under control. During this time, we activated our resilience and emergency planning procedure – a plan that has been in place for years but never used! Before leaving the site, we arranged for the Police to stand guard throughout the night until our agreed return time of 9am on Sunday morning.
Our priorities for that evening were:
• Keeping ourselves and others safe
• Warn fire service of known dangers and provide advice on layout and access
• Consider and implement security of drugs, data, scripts
• Premises security – Police presence
• Alarm company advised of situation
• As the mains electricity supply was burnt, we needed to consider products that needed specific temperature controlled storage
At daybreak on Sunday, Ali contacted local staff, asking for their attendance. I returned around 10am, having hired a large van en route.
At least 70% of the building was a smouldering wreck but, thankfully, the fire shutter that we fitted two years earlier had prevented the spread of fire, smoke and water into the pharmacy area, in fact, the only damage to the internal part of the pharmacy was muddy footprints! Fortunately the roof section above the pharmacy was relatively in tact too.
At this point we needed to consider the next priorities:
• Staff Health and Safety – working in conjunction with the fire commander
• Welfare – toilets, drinks, food supplies
• Lighting – we utilised our emergency battery powered lighting
• Physical security to prevent secondary theft, vandalism, damage or just inquisitive kids!
Given the tremendous attendance of so many of our pharmacy staff (from several of our local branches) we made a decision to relocate the entire contents of the pharmacy to our other site some two miles away in Fazeley. This decision was based on the fact that the existing building could not be fully secured and the necessity for immediate safe storage.
We carefully removed all stock from the shelves and placed it in labelled tote boxes. These boxes were loaded into our waiting vans in a sequenced, alphabetical order to aid sorting at the other end.
Staff considered each of the following:
• Dispensary stock
• Controlled drugs
• Temperature controlled stock
• Patient and business data
• Computer system
• Completed scripts
• Care home trays
• OTC medicines
• Cash register and cash
The controlled drugs were transferred via a printed requisition form, signed and witnessed by two Pharmacists. CDs were separately transported with both Pharmacists and Police notification. The local CDAO was also advised.
The PMR system was also securely relocated and connected at Fazeley. This was tested on Sunday too. This meant that from 8.30am Monday morning, Dosthill pharmacy staff (initially transferred to work from Fazeley Pharmacy) were able to serve patients.
We decided to book additional delivery drivers to work Monday, in order to attempt home deliveries of those scripts already prepared but awaiting collection – we felt this would be helpful to patients who might otherwise struggle to travel to Fazeley.
To help patients who might be calling for information, we placed a call divert on the telephone so that patients would be diverted to the ’emergency mobile’ that was already charged for just such an event.
Both our company website and NHS Choices (now NHS UK) were updated with an informative message explaining the process that patients should follow. Within 24 hours, we also had a banner fitted to the old site explaining how patients could access our service.
As soon as practical, we notified NHS England, GPhC, CDAO, LPC, local GPs, care homes, OOS service and our insurance company.
I should mention that Muazma Ibrahim and Darrell Jackson of NHS England, Stephanie Jackson of GPhC and Peter Prokopa of South Staffs LPC were all very helpful and supportive during the incident.
A short time later, the pharmacy moved back to the original site and is currently housed within a temporary building in the car park.
The directors of Shiraz & Sons stated that they were humbled by the sheer dedication of our local staff without whom, the service could not have continued.
We learned a great deal as a result of this incident. I would strongly recommend that contractors review and, where possible, test their emergency planning and business continuity documents.
If you are unfortunate enough to ever experience anything as catastrophic as this incident, I would urge you to speak directly with NHS England, GPhC, and your LPC – these organisations are so helpful and supportive. Remember, we are all tying to ensure services remain operational for the benefit of patients.
Finally, I would strongly consider writing a joint planning document with your nearest pharmacy in case of such incidents. In such dramatic times, you need to work with your nearest pharmacy colleagues. In the end, we are all in the same industry, with the same aim of trying to provide a great service to local patients.
Note: we decided to purchase the portable pharmacy unit in case of future need but also it will be available for hire for pharmacy refits, or similar local incidents.