This workshop in the Texas Medical Center involved representatives of the city and county, updating institutions and healthcare providers about this year’s hurricane season.
“The value of having communities, even at a neighborhood level, ready to respond. Because disasters like hurricanes can create a lot of debris on the streets, that will slow down the first responders in getting there.”
Sharon Nalls is Houston’s emergency management coordinator. She says hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living centers, need to prepare now to ensure they have an adequate workforce in place, to care for patients in the event of a hurricane:
“Identify gaps, being prepared for whatever might happen. Start looking at your plans, work together.”
PH: “Might complacency be a part of that gap?”
Nalls: “I can be. I mean, sometimes we are a community that deals with just … ‘just-in-time’ type response. Sometimes it’s a case of individuals in a community who believe it’s not gonna happen to them.”
As the city’s largest employer, Edgar Tucker with the TMC says there are many new faces who’ve come from other parts of the country. They weren’t around in 2001 when Tropical Storm Alison flooded the medical center.
“And many of these people have never experienced a hurricane. They don’t understand hurricane season, and what’s the big deal if you get a little rain. So, it is important, and it is part of our responsibility to help them understand that they do need to learn, and they need to develop a plan just as much as someone who’s been here since they were born, who’s been through so many storms and know first hand, why it’s important to respect hurricane season.”
Each January, the state’s 211 database is updated because some people have moved, died or their health issues have changed during the past year.
Dr Herminia Palacio with Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services, says other factors need to be taken into consideration as well.
“We’ve got abandoned homes due to the mortgage crisis. So we may have facilities that are less safe in structure in neighborhood and may present threats from wind damage. So we’ve got a variety of environmental challenges as well, that just make us really need to think hard about how prepared are we, and what are those things that we need to keep in place to make sure our community’s safe.”
She says the workshop reminds participants how to handle a surge of patients, threats to facilities, and to ensure everyone is safe from a healthcare perspective.