Local hospitals review emergency plans

UF Health Jacksonville takes 'all hazards' approach, ready for anything

This tragedy has our local hospitals watching closely and re-visiting their own emergency plans.
This tragedy has our local hospitals watching closely and re-visiting their own emergency plans.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Among the damage in the wake of Monday's tornado in Oklahoma was the destruction of Moore Medical Center. At a time when emergency needs were crucial, the hospital was forced to evacuate patients and redirect people in need to other area hospitals.

That tragedy has Jacksonville-area hospitals watching closely and revisiting their own emergency plans for disasters like a tornado.

Hospital directors said their emergency plans are a work in progress and they are constantly revisiting them and make adjustments and changes. After seeing what other hospitals go through during disasters, they're able to learn from that.

Wayne Marshall is the director for emergency, trauma flight and disaster preparedness at UF Health Jacksonville. He said disasters like the one that hit Moore reiterate how important it is to be ready at all times.

"There's no way to truly prepare for what's going to happen," Marshall said. "You don't know what the damage is going to be, you don't know. That's why we take what's called an all hazards approach so we're ready for anything."

From evacuation equipment to evacuation routes, there are several components to UF Health's incident command system.

"We have evacuation sleds on every floor that help us move patients down," Marshall said. "We did that with a disaster preparedness grant a couple years ago, so we are prepared to evacuate if we have to. We actually practiced that about a year and a half ago. It's something we just continually do."

A communication plan is also in place. The hospital has satellite phones in case cell towers go down. The hospital also has a basement where patients would be moved if they needed to be evacuated from a certain area of the hospital. There's also a plan if patients needed to be transferred out, like they are at Moore Medical Center.

"We do have the pavilion, which is across the street, which is the old Methodist hospital. We do have that," Marshall said. "We have agreements with other local hospitals if need be, whether it's Baptist, whether it's St. Vincent's, whether its Mayo. We have a bunch of different agreements."

Tornadoes can always be a concern, but this time in Florida, hurricanes are a big focus as hurricane season approaches. UF Health Jacksonville is built to sustain up to a Category 5 hurricane. The hospital is part of a hurricane planning conference put on by Duval County's Emergency Operations Center.