Hurricane Season started June 1st. Our first tropical weather system crossed South Florida on June 4th and 5th. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts an average of 14 named storms and seven hurricanes for the Atlantic hurricane season. The average for major hurricanes is three. NOAA is calling this year’s season “above-normal” with 14-21 named storms expected.” Although most of us Floridians have been lucky through the past several hurricane seasons, trusting that luck is not a good plan.
The first part of a plan is to assess the risk most likely to affect your region. As with the first topical weather system that crossed South Florida earlier this month, wind was not the worst threat or eventuality; flooding was the issue. When dispatching caregivers to clients’ and patients’ homes, Administrators need to be aware of the conditions surrounding a client’s residence and avoid sending workers into dangerous areas. FloridaDisaster.org provides resources to identify flood-prone areas. By identifying, in advance, where your clients or patients reside, you can be much more efficient in evaluating whether it is safe to send a worker to a particular location. Further, this process will be necessary while assisting your clients and patients in developing their individual disaster plans.
During the development of your patients’ and your organization’s emergency management plans, consideration must be given to evacuation. Again, FloridaDisaster.org provides maps and other information for Evacuation zones where the likelihood of storm surge and flooding is the highest.
Finally, as we’ve written in past blog posts on this topic, initial preparation should include the following:
1. Survey your direct care staff to determine their plans to remain available for work or whether they will evacuate. Plans always change, but having people think about it may solidify your staffing levels. Make an analysis of the number of confirmed staff who indicate they will remain available for patient assignments compared with the number of clients/patients who will continue to need care. Categorize the patients according to acuity of their medical condition and needs relative to your skilled providers.
2. Contact your mutual assistance partners – organizations with which you may have understanding regarding assisting one another in an emergency – to determine their continued availability to assist with staffing, etc. if needed.
3. Re-assess your clients’ or patients’ plans to evacuate or remain in their homes because their plans, too, are subject to re-evaluation as personal circumstances change. If they will evacuate, be sure to obtain the contact information for their destination and confirm Special Needs Registry patients have the most updated medication, supplies and equipment list. If they do not, make arrangements to get the updated list to them
If you spend some time right now, working through these steps – while you can do so thoughtfully and carefully – you will be better able to keep your patients served and staff safe when a hurricane is on the radar, aiming at your area!