Liability Lifeline - Volume 2

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Vol. 2 2020

Prepare your dental practice for a perpetual wildfire season This year has been unlike any other. Individuals and organizations nationwide are managing through uncertainty and unrest. While some crises cannot be predicted, others are expected but beyond control. As many dental practices navigate COVID-19 challenges, some are also still recovering from the devastating effects of wildfires over the past few years. continued on page 2


Take Inventory Protect Property Secure Coverage

IN THIS ISSUE Taking inventory to safeguard your practice 4 Plan-ahead checklist 6 Navigating disrupted practice operations 7 Emergency property measures 8

Prepare your dental practice for a perpetual wildfire season With the understanding that there are countless aspects of practice demanding dentists’ attention today, The Dentists Insurance Company urges dentists to take time to prepare for the 2020 wildfire season as well as the possibility of year-round wildfire threats. Take control of the factors you can to prepare for, respond to and recover from potential fire risks.


According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number, severity and overall size of wildfires in recent decades has increased across much of the country, with the 2018 California wildfires setting records for acreage burned, destructive property loss and deaths. Although historically the season has started in July, “It’s always wildfire

season now,” U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen warned in an NPR interview last year. “When you look nationwide, there’s not any place that we’re really at a fire season. Fire season is not an appropriate term anymore.” Wildfires are now a year-round phenomenon due to burn conditions — winter snows are melting earlier and rain is coming later in the fall. What

Lifeline Liability

was once a four-month fire season now lasts six to eight months. In recent years, fires have burned well outside of the typical fire season throughout California, Arizona, New Mexico, Tennessee and New Jersey. In fact, of the 15 states where The Dentists Insurance Company provides professional insurance coverage, six are included in the top 10 states at high to extreme wildfire risk.¹ With the growing scope of risks in mind, dentists should not wait to prepare their practices for cases of wildfire and other potential disasters, says Taiba Solaiman, senior risk management analyst at The Dentists Insurance Company. “A catastrophic event such as a wildfire can be devastating to a dental office. Being prepared will help minimize the interruption and assist with resuming patient care should a practice be affected by a wildfire,” she said.

Backing up records Making sure all practice records, including patient charts and accounts receivable, are backed up often in cloud storage or an off-site location is an essential step in the preparation process, says Colette Johnson, TDIC senior claims representative. Johnson has worked with dentists who were affected by both wildfires and fires that originated within the practice. Checking that backups are functioning as they should is also a crucial, but frequently forgotten, step. “Please verify your backups, especially backups of patient records,” Johnson cautions. “If you don’t have the technical information to know whether you have a good backup,

have an IT specialist run a restore of your backup for you.” Johnson also recommends taking videos of the interior of the practice and keeping those videos and any inventory lists in a separate location. In addition, store important documents in a fireproof safe.

Securing sufficient coverage Dentists whose practices and homes were destroyed by recent wildfires also share the importance of staying well covered by insurance policies. David Pokras, DDS, who practices at Southern California Endodontic Group in Simi Valley, discovered he was underinsured when he lost his house in the Woolsey Fire. “The next time we purchase homeowners or fire insurance, I will make sure we have enough insurance coverage to rebuild,” he said. “It is expensive to rebuild and building costs are only going up.”

TDIC urges dentists to take time to prepare for the 2020 wildfire season as well as the possibility of year-round wildfire threats. Jeremy Chatfield, DDS, who lost both his Paradise practice and the house he shared with his wife and three daughters to the Camp Fire in California, echoes Dr. Pokras’s advice. “Review your insurance policies every year and increase them as you purchase new equipment,” Chatfield

recommended. “Also make sure you understand them, and if you don’t, get someone who does to go over them with you.”

Making an escape plan Dr. Chatfield, his staff and a patient narrowly escaped the wildfire, underscoring the importance of planning ahead to ensure the safety of anyone who may be in the practice at the time of an emergency. TDIC advises dentists to become familiar with their community’s evacuation plans, map out several evacuation routes and take steps to make employees aware of those routes. Johnson also suggests that dentists sign up for their community’s emergency alert notification system and keep a well-stocked emergency kit on-site at all times. “The kit should include N95 respirator masks, which cover the nose and mouth and help keep wearers from breathing in smoke and other hazardous substances,” Johnson said.

Finding resources and support The articles that follow have been developed by TDIC’s Risk Management experts to aid policyholders in understanding coverage, preparing practices and safely responding to disruption caused by wildfires. Contact TDIC to review your coverage options or learn more about managing your risks. Additional information on preparing for an emergencies can be found on the Federal Emergency Management Agency website. 1. As of September 2019. Source: Verisk Wildfire Risk Analytics used data from FireLine®, Verisk’s wildfire risk management tool.


Taking inventory to safeguard your practice Take a quick moment to reflect on your practice. Imagine the space — the patient lounge, reception area, operatory and back office. Now, consider all of the many moving parts that come together to make your practice function — computer systems, phone systems, delivery systems, digital imagery, autoclaves and the list goes on and on. Lastly, name each piece of equipment you own, including the model number, serial number, purchase date and estimated value. Not so easy, is it? Relying on memory alone to recount your business assets can be an exercise in futility. While most dentists have a general idea of what they own and how much it’s worth, not all have a thorough, detailed inventory of their office contents, especially the small items like disposable supplies which can quickly add up. Unfortunately, failing to document all items of value can lead to a shortage of insurance coverage should a loss occur. The Dentists Insurance Company reports many cases in which dentists have failed to conduct accurate inventories of their office contents and subsequently did not purchase enough coverage. In one case, a dentist purchased only $580,000 in coverage for a practice with 12 operatories, which had a value of at least $1.2 million — not including the value of the reception area, break room or sterilization room. In another case, the building in which a dentist housed her practice suffered

a fire, and while her property was unaffected, she was forced to relocate. But with four operatories and 1,600 square feet, her $287,000 coverage was hardly enough to rebuild her practice in a new location.

Relying on memory alone to recount your business assets can be an exercise in futility. Waiting until after a loss occurs to conduct an inventory can slow down the claims process, and dentists risk inaccurate reimbursements due to unaccounted for and overlooked items. Conducting thorough inventories preemptively avoids additional and unnecessary stress following a loss. Being proactive, rather than reactive, results in a smoother claims process and a reimbursement amount more in line with the true value of the loss. While a manual method or spreadsheet can suffice, taking inventory of your property has never been easier with apps and software designed especially for this purpose. Tools marketed for conducting home inventories can also work well for documenting business personal property. Many walk users through the process step-by-step, storing the

information securely online. Following are two popular options, though it should be noted that neither are endorsed by TDIC.

Encircle An app designed to inventory home belongings, Encircle’s intuitive, photo-based interface can also be used to quickly and accurately take a visual inventory for a small business. Both mobile and desktop accessible, data can be exported to PDF or Excel. The home inventory app is free on the App Store and Google Play.

Unfortunately, failing to document all items of value can lead to a shortage of insurance coverage should a loss occur. Sortly This easy-to-use app allows you to take photos and videos of each item, along with capturing serial numbers, values or links to product manuals. Group items by category, location or condition, add custom fields to track every detail and even generate custom barcodes and QR labels. The app features automatic backups, secure cloud-based syncing and an offline continued on page 6


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Take part in online C.E. Benefit from waived fees.*

TDIC is here to support you with more resources and fewer fees. For a limited time, take the current risk management online course at your convenience and no cost.

Pain & Perception: reducing nerve injury risks Through 24/7 online education, you can learn to build your confidence when handling patients who experience prolonged numbness after dental procedures. Enroll in the risk management online course today: • Benefit from waived course registration fees* • Earn 3.0 ADA CERP credits upon completion • Get the latest guidance to protect your practice Register now at *Fee waiver valid until September 1, 2020.

Protecting dentists. It’s all we do.


800.733.0633 | | Insurance Lic. #0652783 @TDICInsurance


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mode. Available for Apple and Android devices with a free or low-cost monthly/ yearly plan.

Top 10 states at high to extreme wildfire risk

As a TDIC policyholder, you can refer to your declaration insert to determine your individual policy’s coverage limits. To request a property evaluation or make adjustments to your current policy, contact a trusted TDIC advisor who can work with you to assess the value of your office’s contents and develop a coverage plan that ensures you are not under- or overinsured.

As a TDIC policyholder, you can refer to your declaration insert to determine your individual policy’s coverage limits.

Disaster preparedness requires a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, rehearsing and evaluating. Don’t wait until faced with an emergency to get your documentation in order. Locate, create and safely store the following items now so they are easy to access and use in if needed: n A full-circle call tree that illustrates who contacts whom on the practice team.

n Instructions for an offline messaging

app, which allows staff to communicate even if wireless data or internet connections are not available.

n Guidelines for maintaining compliance

Need one-on-one risk management guidance? n Get answers to your critical

Ensure your practice — and everything in it — is taken into account. Failing to document all contents can lead to stress and frustration should a loss occur. Taking complete and regular inventories of your office contents allows you to purchase the coverage that’s right for you and ease the process of filing a claim.

Plan-ahead checklist

questions through a confidential phone consultation with an experienced TDIC risk management analyst.

n Request a consultation at a time

that’s convenient for you at or by calling 800.733.0633.

n For Risk Management guidance in

Idaho, Oregon or Washington, call 800.452.0504.

with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

n A Certificate of Insurance and contact

information for your property insurance carrier. This document will be necessary if you are forced to temporarily relocate your practice.

n Steps to follow when returning from an evacuation.

Fire trends From January 1 to June 2, 2020, there were 19,762 wildfires compared with 14,968 wildfires in the same period in 2019. About 439,422 acres burned in the 2020 period, compared with 277,745 million acres in 2019. Source: National Interagency Fire Center,


Navigating disrupted practice operations In the event your dental practice was closed or interrupted due to wildfires, there are essential steps to take when it comes to managing patient care, facilitating a possible move to a temporary location and connecting with staff. Managing patient care If your practice is impacted and you are unable to see patients, be prepared to handle emergency care needs in the following ways: n Make arrangements with colleagues

in the surrounding area who may be able to accommodate emergency referrals or who are willing to accept a temporary time-sharing arrangement to occupy their office during off-hours, which will allow you to resume at least partial patient care until your office is operational.

n If referring patients to another colleague, document the discussions with your patients and the courses of actions recommended, such as prescribing medications, referring to a colleague or advising to go the nearest hospital.

n If a patient is referred to another

colleague, follow up on the status of the referral to determine if the patient was seen and, if so, that services were rendered.

n Determine what services you can

perform via teledentistry until your practice is restored.

n Make a plan for contacting patients to reschedule appointments until the practice reopens.

Making a temporary move If you decide to practice at an alternate location, address these liability and logistical considerations: n Be prepared to provide proof of

n Contact the Drug Enforcement

Administration (DEA), Diversion Control Division, for assistance with your DEA-registered address relocation.

Connecting with staff

professional liability and workers’ compensation insurance to the practice owner.

If your dental practice is closed due to the risk or impact of wildfires, here are things to keep in mind regarding staff:

n Discuss office security, such as keys

n Establish a preferred, consistent method

and alarm code, and who will have access (i.e., dental assistants, office manager, etc.) during which times and days of the week.

Determine what services you can perform via teledentistry until your practice is restored.

of communication with your dental team.

n Capture alternate contact information for staff who may be affected or away from the area.

n Reach out to staff to learn if they have

been impacted by the wildfires and ensure that they and their families have been able to get to a place of safety. Determine when and if they are able to return to work.

n Assign a lead point of contact for staff

questions so that you as an employer/ owner don’t have to field every call.

n Make every effort to stay in touch with n Determine the best arrangement for

directing deliveries, calls and/or mail to the temporary location.

n Create a checklist of the items, such as

instruments and supplies, that you bring into the temporary location to ensure these items are returned to your office at the end of the arrangement.

n Notify patients of your temporary

location through signage at your office (if applicable), phone messages and your answering service. Update the information on your office’s website and social media accounts.

your team on a regular basis. Keep them informed of any developments, such as anticipated length of office temporary closure, recovery efforts and continuity plans.

Establish a preferred, consistent method of communication with your dental team.

n Alert your local dental society of your temporary location.

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continued from page 7 n Assign remote work duties to employees, if possible.

n Remember that employers are

responsible to pay employees for all hours worked. TDIC Risk Management can further advise on wage-and-hour issues. Call 800.733.0633 for guidance.

n If you are aware of a missing staff

member or patient, don’t hesitate to contact the local county fire department or the police. Comply with requests for records as long as the entity or individual who requests the information can verify that they have legal standing to do so.

The loss of life and devastating damage caused by wildfires are heartbreaking to say the least. Thousands have been affected as the fires ravaged their lives — destroying homes, businesses, schools and entire communities. In recent years, several TDIC policyholder dentists and their staff members have lost their homes.

If you are aware of a missing staff member or patient, don’t hesitate to contact the local county fire department or the police.

Emergency property measures When events taking place around your practice cause heightened concern about property damage, personal safety is always the first priority. Address environmental dangers to protect yourself, your staff and your patients. If the unimaginable happens and your practice is damaged by a wildfire, document the damage and file a claim as soon as possible. n Take photos of damages if law

enforcement, the fire department and city officials have allowed entrance to the building.

n Provide copies of inventory lists and financial documentation to your insurance adjuster.

n Do not start any cleaning or property

TDIC’s experts are readily available to provide guidance and resources during these times of disruption and uncertainty. If you have questions about your coverage or policies, contact your trusted TDIC advisors at 800.733.0633. 8

removal until the loss site has been inspected by your insurance company.

n Ensure companies that are offering

assistance after the fire are licensed.

Who to contact: n Emergency board-up company: If windows or doors have been broken, contact local services to secure the premises.

n Property management: Once safe to do so, gain access to the premises to coordinate your repair efforts.

n IT service: If the loss involved the theft or damage to computer equipment, get support for remote access and restoring data.

n Dental equipment representative: If equipment may have sustained damage, request assessment and testing and/or the process for repair.

n Restoration company: Address water, smoke and fire damage as soon as possible.

Learn more about steps to take to ensure recovery after fire and water loss, theft and vandalism or computer loss and equipment breakdown in TDIC’s Property: Before and After a Loss guide.

40 years and counting VISION + FOCUS + STRENGTH What does it mean to be built by dentists? In 1980, a small group of CDA members took action and founded The Dentists Insurance Company with a mission to protect only dentists. Since that time, TDIC has transformed from providing professional liability coverage to delivering comprehensive insurance and risk management solutions for a community of 24,000 policyholders in 15 states. Today, we still protect only dentists — with the same drive and dedication as our founders. Discover our dentist-led vision at

Protecting dentists. It’s all we do.


800.733.0633 | | Insurance Lic. #0652783 @TDICinsurance

Lifeline Liability

Liability Lifeline is published by: The Dentists Insurance Company 1201 K Street, 17th Floor Sacramento, California 95814

©2020, The Dentists Insurance Company

Endorsed by: Alaska Dental Society California Dental Association Hawaii Dental Association Idaho State Dental Association Illinois State Dental Society Nevada Dental Association New Jersey Dental Association Oregon Dental Association Washington State Dental Association Also in: Arizona, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Tennessee

TDIC reports information from sources considered reliable but cannot guarantee its accuracy.

Protecting dentists. It’s all we do.


Risk Management Advice Line | 800.733.0633 |


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