For more advice on preparing for a disaster, see the October 2005 and April 2006 issues of the Bulletin (available at or refer to the private practice operations section of the online Practice Management Center (


Published 3/1/2008
Richard A. Brown, MD

Lessons from a fire

Recently, the people of San Diego experienced the unfortunate intrusion of a major fire disaster. My family and I were among the 500,000 individuals evacuated from our homes.

Although the specter of natural disaster—specifically earthquakes—has always loomed over us, when confronted with the reality of departing our home, I was struck by my lack of preparedness. My family was much more fortunate than others because we had time to gather our things and load our cars. Many in the community had no more than 5 minutes.

The lessons that I learned from this experience include the following:

  • Convert all pictures to compact discs (CDs).
  • Copy all financial records on CDs.
  • Store copies of the CDs with friends or family in another state, or at the very least, in a fireproof safe. Many individuals who stored data on computer hard drives lost these crucial files.
  • Keep a small section of your house or basement stocked with blankets, a portable radio with batteries, nonperishable food, and several changes of clothes. If you have to leave suddenly, you’ll have everything together to address basic needs.

In medicine, we all learn from the experiences and mistakes of others. I offer these few words of advice, and I hope that you will never have to heed them.

Richard A. Brown, MD, is a member of the AAOS Now Editorial Advisory Board.

He can be reached at