Are You Ready?

As of today, it has been 3,142 days since the last Category 3 hurricane came ashore in the United States. That blows away the record for the longest period between major hurricanes since 1900. Does that make you feel more secure or more worried?

Hurricane Wilma is the last storm of consequence in the collective South Florida memory, and that was in 2005. Is it a continued quiet period, or are we overdue?

And it’s been almost 30 years since an NBA team has advanced to the Finals for four straight years, that being of course, your Miami HEAT. (Thanks to team physician and Doctors Hospital Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine orthopedic surgeon Dr. Harlan Selesnick for keeping the players healthy). Does that make it sure thing, or has our luck run out? (I know, bad example – it is a sure thing!)

So, those impressive statistics and how we might apply them in predicting how the rest of this hurricane season will go, mean precisely…nada. As a coastal community, we are always vulnerable, and as a healthcare provider and irreplaceable community resource, we must always prepare and maintain our readiness.

I remain confident that we have done so. The underpinning of our readiness is the highly motivated people of Baptist Health, who take seriously our not-for-profit faith-based mission of caring for our community. They prove it every day, but never more so than in a crisis.

We continue to invest in the hurricane hardening of our hospitals and support buildings, ensuring the safety of our patients and staff, and the continued availability of care when it is most needed.

Our Emergency Response Team, made up of employees from all over our organization, makes itself continuously ready and available at a moment’s notice to respond to hurricanes or other emergencies. The 37-member team represents every hospital and entity at Baptist Health. We train and train for emergencies, to the extent of sending more than 100 staff members on three medical mission trips to Haiti to do good work, but also to hone their skills in functioning in the kind of arduous environment we could see in Florida after a major storm.

To prepare for Hurricane Season and crisis response, Baptist Health relocated from Doral and upgraded our entire Telehealth Center to higher ground at our corporate headquarters. The Telehealth Center houses our electronic ICU (eICU), which remotely monitors patients in our hospitals, and our Transfer Center, which coordinates patient moves to, within and from our facilities. This improves accessibility to our Incident Command operations, which are run out of our corporate office during emergencies.

We have significantly strengthened our medical staff infrastructure with the growth of the Baptist Health Medical Group and the alignment of our community physicians with the Baptist Health Quality Network. We have added additional resources in critical specialties, such as general surgery and orthopedics, likely to be tested during a crisis. We have three brand new Baptist Health Primary Care locations opening in strategic locations throughout our community. These very timely openings in the next few weeks will add experienced and enthusiastic new family- and internal-medicine physicians as critical community assets that will aid in preparation, quick recovery, and emergency department decompression.

Enormous thanks to the indefatigable Dr. Jack Ziffer for bringing these changes to life, his visionary physician leadership, and for recruiting Dr. Bernie Fernandez to this team. These measures are sure to help us mobilize in the wake of a crisis.

To help our own employees prepare for the season, we have held four Hurricane Fairs, providing them with supplies and information about how they should prepare beginning in June. The peace of mind that their homes and families are as ready as can be is one more critical part of being able to perform in hurricane conditions.

Baptist Health is fortunate to have in place a Department of Emergency Preparedness, further evidence of our commitment to keeping our facilities operational in an emergency situation like a hurricane. They continue to drive our readiness and are nationally recognized for their innovative work on our behalf.

In fact, this department has improved our ability for Baptist Health to communicate, making it stronger than ever. We continue to have the Everbridge system in place, which allows us to communicate with all of our employees simultaneously via phone, e-mail and text messaging. We created a drill for our CEOs that synchronized our communication options in case of sequential loss of landlines, cell phones, text, e-mail and walkie talkies, so we can maintain contact for crisp and timely decision making. We will be piloting satellite phone communications this year as well.

Baptist Health’s PineApp continues to evolve as a communication tool and will be used for this purpose this year. Our Twitter account @BaptistHealthSF will be part of the communication stream. I highly recommend downloading Hurricane Tracker App, and to follow them on Twitter @HurrTrackerApp. Of course, this blog, Weathering the Storms, is now activated for the 2014 season.

Finally, one of our quiet strengths is people with real-time experience forged in crisis. That is a rare commodity. The longevity and stability of our staff and leadership means that none of this is new to us. All of our entities’ CEOs have experience in hurricane preparedness and response and will be in their respective Incident Command Centers leading their teams of employees and staying tightly coordinated with each other as a system. You cannot buy the experience these leaders bring.

Are you ready? (Yes, I’m ready)
I’ve got to know, yeah (Yes, I’m ready)
You sound real good (Yes, I’m ready)
Are you ready? (Yes, I’m ready)
Gonna be sunshine again (Yes, I’m ready)
And the flowers growing (Yes, I’m ready)
Children playing (Yes, I’m ready)
Gonna be alright.

Are You Ready, Pacific Gas and Electric