Hurricane Season 2017 Begins

This past Sunday set the all time record for the hottest day in May ever in Miami at a scorching 98 degrees.  That same day we were recruiting one of the best surgeons in the country, visiting from Cleveland, Ohio to join our Baptist Health Medical Group.  He was here to show his wife Miami as a potential new home.  I was thinking that this heat was so intense that they are going to say no thanks, too hot for us.  But guess what, they loved the heat! They were thinking about the long cold winters of the Midwest, and said this 98 feels great to us.  I think they are going to come.  Goodbye Cleveland, hello sunshine!

The weather has always been one of our great attractions.  The warmth, the water, the palm trees in the breeze are part of paradise. Paradise also comes with a few challenges.  The one that we think about every year on this particular day is Hurricane Season.  So our preparation begins today, Day One.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm that forever changed our lives and landscape, causing destruction and devastation to our community and later shaping how we prepare for hurricanes and other emergencies today. Whether you were one of the millions of residents who experienced hurricane Andrew first hand or heard the stories through the years, it’s safe to say we don’t ever want to go through a storm like that again…..and definitely not unprepared.

At Baptist Health, we train and plan year round for emergencies, preparing for the worst and hoping will never happen. Every drill provides us with the chance to refresh, refine and reinforce our protocols for crisis scenarios, which go beyond storms to include the outbreak of diseases like Zika and man-made disasters such as bioterrorism.  Our annual Emergency Preparedness Exercise puts us to a rigorous test that activates our Incident Command System checking our communication capabilities, physical security, surge capacity, family reunification, and more.

A lot has changed in the past 25 years. Our plans are more extensive, our communication technology is more sophisticated and our buildings are vastly more secure. Our teamwork, however, remains unchanged and unrivaled.  You are very simply the best in the business. I’m not saying that lightly. Our performance during our drills each year is evaluated real time by a national disaster consultant who says we are the best he’s ever seen at emergency preparation. During Hurricane Andrew and countless other situations including mission trips to Haiti, storm relief to St. Kitts and Nevis, and other places in dire need, I have personally witnessed how crisis brings out the best in people . Staff came to work in the aftermath of a vicious storm, despite their personal losses and they took care of patients. They help their neighbors and strangers alike. If we ever had to face another natural disaster, this community has Baptist Health’s support to care for those who need it most.

Experience has taught us no matter how active or inactive the hurricane season is forecast to be, the exact outcome cannot be certain. You can never be entirely ready for the unexpected, but there are some basic tips and questions to consider to help you get a jumpstart on your personal hurricane preparation plans:

Get Informed

Are you in an evacuation area? Do you have a place to go if you need to evacuate? Where will you keep your pets?

 Create a Hurricane Kit

Do you have flashlights and batteries for everyone? Is your first aid kit complete, and does it include sun block and mosquito repellant? Have you made copies of your important documents?

Communicate and Over-communicate

Do you have a family emergency communication plan? Have you rehearsed it? How will you connect if phones are not working?

Prepare Your Home

Have you made a list of the items you’ll need to stockpile, like food, water and medications? Are your trees in need of trimming? How will you secure outdoor furniture?

There is no shortage of information and resources available to assist with hurricane planning. The important thing is to have some type of plan, and to make preparations in advance, while things are “calm” in the tropics.  You personal preparation is the foundation of your professional work readiness.  That combination makes you a highly valued expert care giver who is ready to perform at the highest level under extreme conditions.  Directly or indirectly, every single one of us is a care giver.

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Here at work, directly or indirectly caring for patients, we clearly understand the implications that our disaster response will have on our patient care and the communities that we serve. Today is the day to reflect on this serious obligation we each take on as part of our mission at Baptist Health. Make sure you understand your departments hurricane plans and your role in those plans.  We will communicate regularly as necessary through all normal channels, including my hurricane preparedness blog

On behalf of our President Brian Keeley and our Chairman William Dickinson, I thank you for your service to our patients, your readiness for every hazard, and your commitment to caring for our community, and each other.

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