Tropical Storm Bill made landfall this week in Texas, a small but wet storm, and early in the season for a named storm. So, we are underway. Like last year, experts are predicting a mild and quiet season for tropical storms in the Atlantic, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. You might be tempted to yawn. But before you do, remember this: Hurricane Andrew — that Category 5 monster that demolished entire swaths of South Florida in 1992 — blasted ashore during another “quiet” hurricane season, causing $26 billion in damage (or $44 billion in 2015 dollars).
So, please, forget the statistics. Ignore the predictions. Each and every year, our mission is the same: to be prepared for the worst — as individuals, as employees, as good citizens — while hoping for the best.
Because we are a large and vital healthcare provider, we at Baptist Health have an added duty and responsibility to be fully prepared for hurricanes as well as other natural and manmade disasters. You, too, need to prepare a personal and family plan so you know what to do when the lights go out… when the faucet drips dirty water… when your roof caves in or rips off… when Biscayne Bay rises toward your front door.
We are all in this together and we can help each other. Hurricane Preparedness Fairs are underway across Baptist Health. At the fairs, you can learn how to take precautions and prepare lists of needed supplies, contact numbers and community resources. Do you know your role at work in the event of a storm? Review the plan with your supervisor.
Our 37-member Emergency Response Team includes representatives from every hospital and entity and is poised to react at any moment, 24/7. If a storm (or any other emergency) threatens South Florida or Baptist Health, we will activate our Everbridge Communication System for timely communication with employees. In addition, rest assured that our highly regarded Emergency Preparedness Department trains year-round.
In the past year, as we dealt with potential Ebola patients coming to our Emergency Centers, we also held a full-scale disaster drill that simultaneously envisioned a hurricane, a violent hospital guest and several patients with Ebola symptoms. Our drill was lauded by community partners who attended, including representatives from Miami-Dade Police, the Health Department and Medical Examiner.
In the end, the team that spearheaded our preparation efforts for the Ebola crisis will receive a Kaizen Award, which rewards employees for initiatives that bring changes for the better to the organization. Several teams deserve a call-out for their performance during the crisis: the Emergency Preparedness & Security Department, the Baptist Health South Florida Emergency Response Team, our team of Infection Control practitioners, the Communications group and Supply Chain. In addition, employees across all entities collaborated to safely handle potential patients with Ebola; to protect both patients and caregivers; and to communicate facts to reassure employees and the community that Baptist Health was ready, willing and able to respond to the Ebola scare. We also broadened our future readiness by including Urgent Care Centers, Primary Care Centers and Labor & Delivery areas in the plan of care for potential Ebola patients.
We always keep in mind our preparedness plan as Baptist Health expands. The Miami Cancer Institute and the new Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute —both under construction on the Baptist Hospital campus — will be hurricane-hardened structures designed to withstand even the most powerful storms. These new facilities will house innovative cardiovascular and cancer services that will serve not just our local communities but attract patients from all over the world. We can all take pride in these advances at Baptist Health and in the knowledge that we are taking care to build the safest, strongest buildings possible.
In the end, as usual, our success in preparing for and facing a disaster depends on you, the people who make up the Baptist Health family. I have the utmost faith in our processes and systems and, more importantly, in our people who carry them out. You are caring. You are experienced. You remain calm — and go above and beyond the call of duty, time and again, for our patients and for each other. No matter if the crisis is a hurricane, a public health scare or other disaster, the Baptist Health community has the education, training, experience and compassion to weather any storm.
Against the wind,
A little something against the wind,
I found myself seeking shelter against the wind.
- Bob Seger