Healthcare Providers Prepare for Hurricane Season

The city, county and the Texas Medical Center teamed up to host a healthcare hurricane preparedness workshop. It is an effort to ensure that the medical community is prepared. Pat Hernandez has more.

The third annual conference attracted hospital, nursing home and assisted living center staff and home health and services providers. Speakers included Chris Hebert, lead hurricane forecaster for Impact Weather. He says the Gulf of Mexico is notorious for having a very short lead time in advance of a hurricane’s approach.

“And that’s happened many times in the past, where we get some major hurricanes impacting the Houston-Galveston area from a very short lead time. Alicia three days before landfall was a very weak tropical storm that just formed off the coast of Louisiana and headed westward. A lot of times we don’t get those three, four, five days of warning. Sometimes they can develop very quickly. Last year, we had Humberto go from a nothing to a hurricane in one day.”

Doug Havron with the Regional Hospital Preparedness Council and Southeast Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council, gave attendees an overview of the communication technology available to the healthcare infrastructure. That enables the medical community to coordinate response in time of disaster. He says it’s not just for hurricane season.

“We have to be ready every day. We have to be ready every day for some traumatic event. We have to be ready for some mass casualty event. In an all-hazard planning approach, we have to be ready every day for some biological or terrorist event. It is a matter of being able to respond to large numbers of casualties, being able to respond to catastrophic incidents, and be able to prioritize what we’re going to do first, and how we’re going to carry that plan out based on what the mission is that is unique to every disaster.”

Flooding from Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 caused 2-billion dollars damage in the Medical Center. Nicky Smith, the Center’s communications and mobility supervisor, keeps an eye on the Harris Gulley, the box culvert that runs underneath.

“We have very strict procedures that go into effect when that level starts rising. Actually at five feet is when we start making our initial notifications to our internal and external customers.”

Robert Stott, executive Vice President of the TMC, says the message of the conference was to make all healthcare providers aware of the potential storms and hurricanes that could impact their patients and facilities:

“Ever since Allison occured, we’ve been planning, we’ve been improving our infrastructure here to prepare never to have that kind of situation situation happen again.”

Pat Hernandez, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.