Listen to Scott Cormier, VP of Emergency Management and Environment of Care for Medxcel, talk about the decision to not evacuate their hospitals during Hurricane Irma, despite being warned to do so by local authorities:
After nearly 40 years as a meteorologist, it still delights me to hear how our services and expertise enable clients to stay safe during natural disasters. This was the case with Medxcel, which manages healthcare facilities across the U.S., during Hurricane Irma.
Through their partnership with StormGeo, Medxcel received decision support for three facilities in Florida before, during and after Irma, including a nursing home and two hospitals. However, they were separately advised by local authorities to evacuate one of their hospitals due to the anticipated level of storm surge and flooding that would accompany the storm.
Scott Cormier, VP, Emergency Management, Environment of Care and Safety for Medxcel, understands the weight of evacuating a hospital, including the timely information that is needed. “We know that if you’re going to evacuate a hospital, you have to make that decision at least 48 hours before [a hurricane’s] landfall. However, 48 hours before landfall, you don’t necessarily know where that hurricane is going to land. We knew we would get some property flooding, but would we need to evacuate?”
A hospital evacuation has major implications in terms of time, safety, money and potential patient distress. A single ambulance evacuation of a patient can cost thousands of dollars. However, a wide-scale hospital evacuation of infirmed and non-ambulatory patients requires many people, many vehicles and an exorbitant amount of time — the costs of such a scenario can easily climb into the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars.
We had been working with StormGeo meteorologists throughout the morning and night, and they had told us the predicted rise was only 18 inches. So we stood our ground, telling emergency services what the data was pointing to.
Prior to Irma’s landfall, Medxcel had begun to develop evacuation plans. However, the weather information from StormGeo showed that the wind, rainfall and storm surge would cause some flooding, but not to the extent where it would be detrimental to the hospital and its patients.
As the flooding began, local emergency management recommended evacuation, saying they had data showing that the river next door was going to rise five feet. Cormier recalls, “We had been working with StormGeo meteorologists throughout the morning and night, and they had told us the predicted rise was only 18 inches. So we stood our ground, telling emergency services what the data was pointing to.” Cormier continues, “I asked them to tell us where they were getting their data from — because we trust StormGeo.”
Having worked with StormGeo for over a decade, Cormier knows that the government forecasts relied on by local authorities are often based on worst-case scenarios for entire regions. They simply cannot take each location’s specific criteria in mind and will call for broad evacuations based on zip codes or regions, rather than spend precious time on how the storm will affect each residence or business.
StormGeo’s forecasts, which are tailored to the client’s exact location, are fine-tuned for impacts from wind, rain and flooding. The satellite and radar information used allows our meteorologists to spot a change in a hurricane as it is happening.
StormGeo hurricane forecasts and advisories are also issued an hour before NHC forecasts, meaning the client often receives the latest information sooner than local officials. StormGeo makes sure to examine government forecasts as soon as they are issued, in order to detail any differences to clients.
When a new storm advisory is issued, the Medxcel team can call StormGeo with questions or invite the meteorologists to join their conference calls, which often include their facility managers, emergency teams and HQ. The calls begin with a weather briefing from StormGeo, followed by questions from the Medxcel team about the storm. These calls can take place with each new storm advisory, or more often as needed.
Speaking with Cormier reminded me of the importance of strong client relationships. While it’s important for businesses to be aware of what official warnings say, it’s equally important for them to have a trusted source on their team to that understands their specific business and can give information tailored to their unique needs.