The catastrophic EF5 multiple-vortex tornado that killed 160 people and wiped out a quarter of Joplin, Mo., left many valuable lessons in its wake – some large and some small.
Among the small ones?
“Slippers,” says Rob Dale, emergency manager at McLaren–Greater Lansing.
“One of the first things we learned in studying that tornado from a hospital perspective is that after the hospital took a direct hit many of the patients who were being evacuated cut their feet on broken glass, so we’re changing our policy to make sure patients have slippers or shoes of some kind in the event of an emergency here.”
That kind of forethought and planning is among the reasons the National Weather Service designated McLaren–Greater Lansing as Michigan’s first “storm-ready” hospital, making it one of fewer than 10 hospitals nationwide so honored.
The designation, Dale says, means the hospital is uniquely prepared to protect and continue serving patients during times of severe weather.
“It’s recognition for all the work that our staff has put into planning, preparing and drilling so they know what to do in the event of a tornado or other weather emergency,” said Rick Wright, president and CEO, McLaren–Greater Lansing.
Since 1999, the National Weather Service’s StormReady program has recognized 1,875 communities, counties, universities, commercial venues and government/military facilities nationwide. Fewer than 10 hospitals have earned the designation. McLaren Greater Lansing is the first hospital in Michigan to be recognized.
To be officially StormReady, a community must:
According to the National Weather Service, storm readiness is important because Americans live in the most severe weather-prone country on Earth. Each year, Americans cope with an average of 10,000 thunderstorms, 5,000 floods, 1,000 tornadoes, and an average of two hurricanes that make land-fall, not to mention winter storms, intense summer heat, high winds, wild fires and other deadly weather impacts.
- Establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center
- Have more than one way to receive severe weather warnings and forecasts and to alert the public
- Create a system that monitors weather conditions locally
- Promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars
- Develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises.
Among the more recent storm safety innovations McLaren–Greater Lansing has adopted is First2Warn, a web-based system that analyzes a local severe weather warning from the National Weather Service and tells the hospital if it will be directly affected. This was tested two weeks ago when the hospital conducted a full-scale mock disaster drill.
“The system performed great in the drill,” said Dale. “Overall, it allows us to reduce the number of false alarms so we’re not stopping surgeries and pushing beds into the hallway. There’s less hassle and increased safety for patients.”