Local Hospitals Prep for Hurricanes

We all know how to keep our families safe when a hurricane is headed toward the Southeast, but what if you were in charge of not only your family’s safety, but two hospitals full of people?

St. Joseph’s/Candler Emergency Preparedness Manager Bob Staples does just that.

“[I’m] tracking the hurricane, coordinating with the Chatham Emergency Management Agency, the local hospitals, Georgia Hospital Association,” said Staples.

According to Staples, STJC uses five condition levels to determine what kind of response they need based on how many hours away the storm is from making landfall:

Level 5- 92-72 hours away
Level 4- 60-42 hours away
Level 3- 36-24 hours away
Level 2- 24-12 hours away
Level 1- 4-1 hour away

Once they hit Level 4 though, Staples explained, that’s when they start deciding who needs to be evacuated.

“We would look first at discharging patients, we would look at elective surgeries,” he said. “Then we would set up coordinating with inland facilities to be able to accept our patients.”

It’s been 16 years since the last time STJC had to evacuate patients, when hurricane Floyd threatened a direct hit, but Staples said they’re always ready, just in case.

Both hospitals have about 60 patients each that would have to be transported to facilities further inland, the rest could be safely discharged to family members.

But if the storm isn’t strong enough to warrant evacuation, he Staples said they still discourage family members from staying with their loved ones who aren’t well enough to leave the hospital grounds.

“It puts more people in harms way and dependent on the strike and severity of the hurricane, the damage it would bring, we may have to stretch our resources so we’d want to be able to have that for our staff and patients.”

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