How Orlando Health Prepares for Hurricanes
Because we live in Florida, hurricanes are a part of the landscape here. That’s why we actively monitor all of these situations whenever the National Weather Service issues an advisory or alert.
We last monitored Tropical Storm Julia, which didn’t have much of an impact. Before that, it was Hurricane Hermine. Depending on what the weather experts tell us, we prepare for the worst while hoping for the best possible outcome. In Central Florida, the worst storm we’ve ever experienced was Hurricane Charley, which hit our region in 2004.
As Florida braces for Hurricane Matthew, having a hurricane preparedness plan in place is critical. Orlando Health has been preparing for Hurricane Matthew and the subsequent medical and emergency care needs that may result from the storm. We have a Hurricane Management Plan and Severe Weather Plan from which we work. Here’s what you should know about how we prepare for hurricanes.
Our Emergency Preparedness Plan
As soon as we learn of any inclement weather conditions, we begin to monitor the storm. We join conference calls with the National Weather Service, and relay that information to our hospital representatives to make sure they are updated. These calls are especially important when the tracks swing toward us.
We also remind all medical staff and employees to review our Hurricane Management Plan. We place rush orders for additional supplies at each of our facilities to sustain us throughout the hurricane, so we can continue to deliver quality care to any patients currently in our facilities, as well as any that may come in during the storm. Orlando Health also creates a staffing plan for each site, as doctors, nurses and other medical staff may have to work long hours.
Each site also will have at least three to seven days of food inventory so that there’s enough food for patients, staff and visitors. Days in advance of the storm, shipments arrive at each of our hospitals to fulfill this need. Our hospital engineering departments work through a checklist to secure our buildings and we alert our facilities and construction staff that they need to prepare. Some of the precautions they take include either strapping down or removing loose items before the storm, bringing down any elevated cranes and possibly sandbagging the roofs for added safety.
How Hurricanes Affect Patients
Orlando Health strives to ensure that inclement weather conditions do not affect patient care. By preparing ahead of time with generators, ample supplies, and staffing schedules, we are able to anticipate patient and staff needs.
Patients, staff, and the community are notified of any closings in advance of appointments or procedures. Physician offices will generally stay open until such a time as weather predictions indicate a threat to the safety of our team members or patients. Elective procedures, surgeries, and treatments continue as planned if the patient will be recovered prior to the onset of the storm. Otherwise, the patient will be contacted to reschedule to their convenience. However, our air care helicopters will remain out of service until the hurricane passes as a precaution.
How The Public Can Prepare
We are aware that many area residents worry about the accessibility of hospitals and other medical facilities during major storms. We strive for all of our facilities to remain open. However, depending on the weather conditions, we may need to close certain facilities, or even lock down. It is also possible that the county and city advise that no persons be on the road.
With this in mind, it’s important for residents to take this storm seriously and prepare for it, just as many local businesses and other hospitals already have. If you have not already done so, you can prepare for the storm by taking these measures:
- Establish a family emergency plan with the names of an evacuation, neighborhood or regional meeting place where you’ll gather in the event of a major storm. Also include important medical information, the name of your doctors and their contact information.
- Ensure you have plenty of non-perishable food supplies in the event of a prolonged power outage. This should include bottled water, juice, bread, peanut butter, jelly, canned foods, pet foods and a manual can opener. Also, get a hurricane kit and stock up on emergency supplies such as a first aid kit, flashlights, batteries, a radio, solar charger, extra blankets, rain gear.
- Ensure you have ample medications. If you don’t already have enough medications, pick up a renewal now. This includes over-the-counter medications, and any vitamins or supplements you may be taking. You don’t want to run out during the storm, because there is no guarantee of what pharmacy will be open.
- Make sure your vehicles have full tanks of gas.
- Prepare your home for the storm. Remove any loose outdoor items and move them to a secure location, trim dead branches from trees, move furniture away from the windows and board your windows, if necessary, fill multiple containers with gas and have plenty of cash on hand if you need to purchase additional items (ATMs and gas pumps will not work if there’s a major power outage).
- Put your name on the county special-needs registry if you require a special-needs shelter. Orange County maintains a special needs registry with emergency management for anyone who needs additional assistance.
Everyone should take this storm seriously. It’s better to be prepared than not. Taking these precautions could mean the difference between serious injury and staying safe.