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City Of Houston Briefs Healthcare Facilities On Hurricane Preparation

Annual Summit took place at George R. Brown Convention Center.

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About 500 people participated in the day-long event, which is organized by the City of Houston’s Office of Emergency Management every year.

It’s geared toward non-hospital healthcare facilities, such as nursing homes, dialysis centers and home health agencies.

“What we found over the last few years is the better prepared that these agencies are to deal with the effects of a hurricane and to meet the needs of their clients, the less resources the city and the community has to provide,” OEM spokesman Michael Walter said.

“So we want to give them the tools, give them the information to make sure that their emergency plans are in place and are enough to help meet the needs of their clients.”

Participants got this season’s hurricane forecast and listened to presentations from different agencies, including the OEM, Centerpoint and the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services.

Walter said his agency learned during Hurricane Ike in 2008 that a lot of nursing homes and assisted living facilities didn’t have the right information on how to deal with that kind of emergency.

“We found a lot of facilities just didn’t know what to expect as far as evacuation,” he said. “A lot of facilities expected to be evacuated but they weren’t in evacuation zones, so they didn’t have a ride out. They had to provide that transportation assistance for their residents on their own.

“So really, this event is going to help us set expectations with some of these facilities about what they can expect, what they shouldn’t expect and what they should be planning for on their own.”

Walter said one thing all those facilities should do is register with the State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry, so that emergency agencies have all the relevant information before disaster strikes.

Karen Buck, an administrator at the Cleveland Healthcare Center nursing home, said she is taking away some useful information from the meeting. Her facility is outside of the evacuation zone but some of its sister facilities evacuate to the center.

“I have a plan in place but I think knowing what your plan is, practicing it, making sure it’s updated, making sure all the parts of your plan actually work kind of came to the forefront,” she said. “It’s great to have it written down on paper, but does it really work?”  

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a near- or below-normal Atlantic hurricane season this year, with eight to 13 named storms, three to six of which could become hurricanes.

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Representatives of non-hospital healthcare facilities listen to a speaker during the Houston Healthcare Hurricane and Emergency Preparedness Summit at the George R. Brown Convention Center Tuesday (June 10)

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