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Community Hospital Blog

Disaster Preparation
Valuing Relationships through a Storm

by Mary W. Poole, Director of Public Relations, Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas

 

Proud to serve residents of Beaumont, Texas and surrounding areas, Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas' employees, physicians, and volunteers share a vibrant bond with our community — a heartfelt connection which became evident earlier this year in the face of Hurricane Harvey. Although hurricanes are not new to the city of Beaumont and surrounding communities on the Texas Gulf Coast, we won’t forget Harvey. We remember vividly the teamwork and community cooperation.

 

Hurricane Harvey roared ashore at the end of August 2017 becoming a tropical depression as it moved inland. Cities were underwater and Beaumont was no exception. Major roadways into Beaumont from Houston were virtually impassable due to rain and flooding. Disaster preparedness plans for area hospitals were put to the test including the BHSET Beaumont campus, a 483-bed facility.

 

This weather event crystallized the meaning of relationships in an environment where lives intersect daily, and reinforced the importance of disaster preparedness.

 

Key takeaways: a summary

 

Be prepared. The week before the hurricane’s expected arrival, BHSET’s disaster plan came into sharp focus. The plan included arrangements organizing the delivery of food, supplies, and water if needed; vendors were placed on standby. As a result, many vendors came to our aid during the storm, bringing needed supplies and support as the days passed.

 

Communication is key. Seventy-two hours before landfall we started setting up our incident command center. With food, fuel, medical supplies, linens and pharmaceutical supplies secured, our next focus turned to preparation of our employees. On any given day, everyone within our organization is aware if they are on the A, B or C storm teams.

 

Preparing your staff is as vital as preparing your facility. As Hurricane Harvey saturated Southeast Texas with over 66 inches of rain in a three day time-frame, access to clear and concise information for our employees and medical staff was a top priority before, during and after the storm. With information outlets established via website, an employee/physician app and a 1-800 number, family members, staff and physicians had access to information that they needed and to allay fears.

 

To communicate with the public, we leveraged our long-standing media relationships built on transparency and trust to share critical information.

 

Relationships matter. BHSET leaders serve on various community boards, community participation inspired by CEO David Parmer. Groups include the Rotary Club of Beaumont, the Chamber of Commerce, United Way, and the March of Dimes along with various business and industry groups such as the Texas Hospital Association and many others.

 

Partnerships like these were priceless, and with strong community involvement, we were able to weather the storm. Medical organizations and neighboring communities offered a plethora of assistance. From “duck boats” for transporting waterlogged employees to the City of Nederland providing vital drinking water, our long-lasting commitment to the community proved to be our biggest asset.

 

Expect the unexpected. No two storms are exactly the same, so learning from each one is a key to success. During Hurricane Harvey, the water came up so fast that it covered the water treatment plant in Beaumont, immediately leaving the entire City of Beaumont without “potable” water. We did not anticipate losing city water; this was a game changer. We then faced the difficult decision to discontinue services, transferring patients to nearby acute care facilities with expert assistance from the National Guard, local and neighboring air services, Black Hawk helicopters and ambulances.

 

 

The adjacent city of Nederland was a dynamic partner and friend, delivering containers of water we so desperately needed. During and after the storm, vendors brought patient care supplies, gift cards and more.

 

Give thanks. As we approach the holidays, there’s no better time to give thanks. Thank you to everyone who helped us continue to provide compassionate care and services despite Hurricane Harvey, reinforcing our commitment to making a difference in our community, one patient at a time.

Tags: Community Service, Disaster Preparation, Partnership

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