Hospitals plan for patient evacuations in major storms - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

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Hospitals plan for patient evacuations in major storms

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) – As a storm nears, many people are ordered to evacuate, many of whom are fully capable of doing so. But what about people who can't? How do hospitals evacuate their patients?

It's a topic Jerry Flury with Roper St. Francis takes seriously.

"We have a very robust evacuation plan that we practice annually, and we have contracts with fixed wing carriers, helicopters, ambulances, and buses over the state of South Carolina, Charlotte and in Georgia," he said.

And with an evacuation being practiced or in full swing, they have to have a central area for meeting and planning. That's why Roper St. Francis has a command center to coordinate with people across the state.

"We usually have one of our chief nurse officers as our operating section and then of course there is finance – you always have to have finance for everything," Flury said.

Brian Fletcher at Medical University Hospital says officials there start planning as soon as the first watch or warning is put in place by the National Weather Service.

"A small group of leadership begins looking at this. We're talking to local weather service; we're talking to the media; we're trying to get a good handle as you know tropical storms and hurricanes are so unpredictable that it becomes very difficult to pin down where it's going and where it's going to hit," he said.

At MUSC, they're also taking preparations to a new level.

"We are taking it one step further. We have a critical infrastructure mitigation program that is underway that's been funded in part by FEMA dollars to actually move all of our critical infrastructure up out of the flood zone," Fletcher said. "In fact, on the fourth floor so that it will make it less probable that we would have to evacuate should a storm come."

At the Ralph H. Johnson Medical Center, ambulatory buses are provided around the clock for evacuation, if they are needed. There are two buses in Charleston, one is 36 feet long and the other is 28 feet long, says Charlie Tupper.

Tupper adds that parts from a C-130 were installed in the bus to allow for stretchers and moving patients with different needs.

But at what point do hospitals get the word that it's time to evacuate?

"We have a plan at the VA. We started 96 hours out and we look at a storm," Tupper said, who says they take one day at a time in their planning. "Our goal is to get the patients out of the building before the 24-hour point."

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