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Vidant Medical Center participates in “120 in Landfall” hurricane preparedness exercise

February 21, 2017 by Amy Holcombe

GREENVILLE – In an effort to prepare for a hurricane, the Eastern Healthcare Preparedness Coalition (EHPC), led by Vidant Medical Center (VMC) and the Southeastern Healthcare Preparedness Region (SHPR), are jointly coordinating the “120 to Landfall” exercise series. The series is focused on the coordination and communication among health care providers prior to a storm making landfall.

Beginning Feb. 22, the exercise will take place over seven days and focus primarily on the decision making process of local health care providers. Participants will focus on preparing for the potential evacuation of a facility prior to landfall, communication of information among facilities, local, regional and state organizations, as well as the coordination necessary to accomplish the movement of patients out of harm’s way.

For the last three years, health care agencies, county emergency management organizations, public health agencies and emergency medical service (EMS) providers from the 29 counties that comprise the EHPC and six counties in SHPR have participated in planning meetings, workshops, tabletop exercises, a functional exercise and now the full scale exercise, “The Big Move.”

This exercise will begin five days, or 120 hours, from landfall of a Category 4 hurricane, whose track is similar to that of Hurricane Ernesto in 2006. Each day will focus on a different component of pre-landfall health care coordination and preparedness activities:

  • Feb. 22 – Notification and decision making processes at the State and regional level
  • Feb. 23 – Hospital evacuation triggers
  • Feb. 24 – Reducing patient census, evacuation planning and coordination to locate patient beds statewide
  • Feb. 27 – Identification of patient transport resources within NC and nationally
  • Feb. 28 – Statewide exercise
  • March 1 – Hospital evacuation
  • March 2 – Exercise debrief and wrap-up

“This exercise series is particularly critical, not only to Vidant Health, but to all the health care facilities in eastern NC since there are literally thousands of patients that could be in harm’s way should a large hurricane [similar to the one in this scenario] impact us,” said Chris Starbuck, health care preparedness coordinator, VMC. “We need to be properly prepared and able to maintain a state of readiness to evacuate, and/or if needed, shelter-in-place these patients.”

Starbuck explained that a movement of this magnitude could produce a significate strain to the health care infrastructure across the state. For a successful evacuation to occur, patients will have to be identified, transportation resources will have to be moved, and receiving hospitals will need to decompress and arrange beds for these patients. It could possibly take 24 to 48 hours for this to happen. “Exercises like this help us identify any weaknesses or gaps in plans so that we can improve upon them prior to an actual event.”

The 120 to Landfall series will provide opportunities for partner agencies to practice communication processes, utilize tools and plans for coordination, identify areas for improvement and enhance the overall coordination required to ensure the provision of healthcare in all emergencies.

The overarching goal to the program is to evaluate plans and to determine any gaps or shortfalls that may occur in a large scale medical evacuation due to a devastating hurricane making landfall in NC.

Note to Media: There will be an opportunity for interviews on Feb. 23 at 1 p.m. at the Monroe Center, located at 2000 Venture Tower Dr. If you’d like to cover this event, you must contact Amy Holcombe at 252-916-4529.

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