natural hazards

natural hazards

Stuart Wilkins

It is no secret that this past year has been ravaged by its fair share of natural hazards that affected the entire United States. However, some of the bigger sectors that were affected by these disasters are the Healthcare sector. Three examples of incidents that placed hospitals in jeopardy were the wildfires in California, Hurricane Harvey in Texas, and Hurricane Irma in Florida. Each played a large role in the reexamination of the Healthcare sector as well as analyzing the structures and procedures set in place to protect its inhabitants.

California Wildfires:

Towards the end of October 2017, wildfires began to spread rapidly in Northern California that caused two separate hospitals to evacuate their residents to other hospitals in the surrounding area. Additionally, while the patients at the hospitals were being transported, they were observed wearing facemasks. To aid in the transportation, some patients utilized wheelchairs, walkers, or gurneys and were loaded onto ambulances or city buses. This type of collaboration and effort shows that the Healthcare sector did a wonderful job of preparing and executing an effective hospital evacuation. In the future, it would be important to keep as many wheelchairs, walkers, or gurneys available to continue to aid those patients who need assistance with the evacuation process.

Hurricane Harvey:

Texas saw some of the largest and most disastrous floodings in its lifetime following Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. However, with so much flooding, there were still hospitals that remained open during the storm’s aftermath. Although much of the Healthcare sector made the conscious decision to close pharmacies, hospitals, and other outpatient services, there were still “ride-out” crews available to aid patients that could not be evacuated away from the flooding. According to sources, there were over 140 emergency missions that aided in the removal of over 1,000 patients that were in danger from the record-breaking flooding that was occurring. In the future, the Healthcare sector should continue to closely monitor these storms and systems in order to be better prepared and proactive when it comes to transporting and moving patients to safer locations.

Hurricane Irma:

September also saw Hurricanes taking a beating along the east coast with Hurricane Irma. Between Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, over 35 hospitals had made the decision to either close in their entirety or partially evacuate in the midst of Hurricane Irma. Although the hurricane’s path changed courses quite frequently, the Healthcare sector stuck to the decision to completely or partially evacuate its hospitals in order to protect their patients. Similar to the wildfires in California, hospitals utilized ambulances and city buses to aid in the transportation of these patients to safer locations. When analyzing what can be done in the future to continue the focus on the protection of the residents is to have evacuation plans already implemented so expedite the removal process. In addition, having drills or meetings specifically for this outcome could also aid in the organizational aspect of the evacuation.


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