HCA Healthcare’s approach to hurricane readiness in 2022

3D Render of a Topographic Map of the Gulf of Mexico with Hurricane Irma's clouds before it made landfall in 2021.
Before Hurricane Ida made landfall in August 2021 as a high-end Category 4 hurricane, the HCA Healthcare's Enterprise Emergency Operations Center (EEOC) took action to ensure our Louisiana hospitals had appropriate staff, medications, supplies, food, water and generator power.

For more than 50 years, HCA Healthcare has been preparing for, responding to and learning from various emergency scenarios and extreme weather events like hurricanes. We know how critical it is to maintain continuity of care across facilities, ensuring our patients and communities can count on HCA Healthcare in any circumstance.

Our emergency operations teams respond on average to 900 events annually. These personnel are comprised of national, regional and facility-based healthcare professionals that are experienced, educated and trained in specialty areas that can support impacted HCA Healthcare facilities.

Read on to learn how our teams are planning and executing crisis responses in the midst of Atlantic hurricane season 2022.

Jessica Picanzo in HCA Healthcare's Enterprise Emergency Operations Center.
Jessica Layne Picanzo, MSN, EMT-P, CFRN, CMTE, Director, Enterprise Emergency Operations & Medical Transport in HCA Healthcare’s Enterprise Emergency Operations Center (EEOC) in Nashville, Tennessee.

Preparation, teamwork pays off during 2021 Atlantic hurricane season

Each year, our preparation for natural disasters is put to the test during the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30 and affects communities across the Eastern Seaboard and Gulf Coast.

In 2021, the National Hurricane Center saw 21 named tropical storms (winds of 39 mph or greater), including one of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit the United States – Hurricane Ida. Before Hurricane Ida made landfall in August 2021 as a high-end Category 4 hurricane, HCA Healthcare’s Enterprise Emergency Operations Center (EEOC) took action to ensure that our Louisiana hospitals had appropriate staff, medications, supplies, food, water and generator power. Command Centers were opened at HCA Healthcare facilities throughout Louisiana. When HCA Healthcare affiliate hospital Tulane Lakeside Hospital lost water pressure, the decision was made to transfer patients out of an abundance of caution. Patients were safely transferred to sister hospitals and other nearby facilities using HCA Healthcare’s robust transport network.

In the wake of Hurricane Ida, our Louisiana hospitals were supplied with temporary staffing, remediation teams and fuel trucks. Colleagues were supplied with housing, meals, gas, laundry and support from the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund.

Storms getting stronger after slow start to 2022 hurricane season

With dozens of hospitals in hurricane-prone regions like Florida, Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina and Georgia, our organization maintains an active partnership with hurricane forecasting service StormGeo and is constantly in contact with its meteorologists to stay up to date on the current and expected weather trends.

Prior to the 2022 hurricane season kicking off, major weather tracking agencies predicted an especially active hurricane season. However, as hurricane season reached its traditional peak on September 10, the Atlantic had seen one of the quietest hurricane seasons on record, with only three named storms before September 1. And, for the first time since 1997, not a single hurricane or tropical storm had formed in the Atlantic basin in August.  

In the month of September, things appear to have changed rather quickly in the Atlantic.

As of September 26, there have been nine named storms this season: Alex, Bonnie, Colin, Danielle, Earl, Fiona, Gaston, Hermine and now, Hurricane Ian.

Hurricane Ian is the ninth named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season and is projected to strengthen when it nears Florida’s Gulf Coast later in the week. Ian is estimated to bring life-threatening storm surge, hurricane-force winds and heavy rainfall. Tropical Storm and Hurricane Watches have been issued along the west coast of Florida.

As hurricane season continues, StormGeo currently predicts a total of 14 named storms in 2022, with six hurricanes, three of which could become major Category 3-4-5 hurricanes.

How HCA Healthcare is preparing for hurricane season 2022

HCA Healthcare’s Enterprise Emergency Operations Center (EEOC) is at the helm of our hurricane preparedness efforts. This multi-disciplinary incident response team consists of nearly 200 leaders dedicated to providing resources and coordinating crisis response before, during and after a wide variety of emergency situations.

The Nashville, Tennessee-based EEOC is comprised of experienced leaders in their field, including risk management experts, emergency operations incident managers, clinical leaders, facilities management leaders and community liaisons who are available 24/7 to support HCA Healthcare’s more than 2,000 sites of care. These leaders leverage strategic partnerships with StormGeo and air transport partner Air Methods, among others, and utilize top-notch equipment and technology to monitor the risk landscape constantly, assess current and potential threats and evolve response plans and programs. Working across HCA Healthcare’s network, we can also redirect our supply chain to get medical supplies, equipment and care teams to affected areas to offer assistance. Prepositioned resources include temporary generators and bulk water and fuel supply.

Each year, the EEOC creates and distributes key resources to HCA Healthcare facilities nationwide as part of a standing commitment to advancing HCA Healthcare’s approach to emergency preparedness.

During the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, HCA Healthcare is taking our preparation a step further – including up-leveling our transfer center protocols using our evacuNATE algorithm, which helps us reduce hospital evacuation time using real-time triage data. Our seven transfer centers serve more than 650,000 patients each year, providing our clinicians with the setting and resources needed to manage patient movement during critical times and maximize their time treating at the bedside. During weather events, they determine which patients, in which order, go where.

EvacuNATE tracks where every patient is and alternative care is available to facilitate the process, replacing whiteboards to provide streamlined communications between teams. We’ve also enhanced our capabilities by implementing Dataminr, an emergency operations technology program to monitor real-time events unfolding in our communities using advanced AI-driven analytics.

The EEOC has also revised its playbook to reflect the dual threat of an especially active season and the continued impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the communities we serve. Comprehensive readiness activities in 2022 include regional pre-planning initiatives such as new workshops and tabletop training exercises, flight dispatch teams and additional training for on-the-ground strike teams.

People in flight suits learning about medical technology on a helipad.
In August 2022, HCA Healthcare held a first-of-its-kind NICU Incident Support Team training in Brandon, Florida to help support the transfer of NICU patients should disaster strike. The team is comprised of highly specialized nurses, respiratory therapists and AirMethods pilots from across the country.

We train regularly with our partners at Air Methods, which supplies helicopters for incident management and evacuation events, as well as patient transport efforts.  This year, in collaboration with Air Methods, we established a first-of-its-kind NICU Incident Support Team (NICU IST) to support the transfer of NICU patients should disaster strike. The NICU IST team – comprised of unique, highly specialized HCA Healthcare nurses and respiratory therapists from across the country – stands the ready to deploy to NICUs in hurricane-prone regions.

“Critically ill infants cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are among the most vulnerable patients in our hospitals. Premature and sick babies have complex needs and rely on 24/7 advanced services and technology to grow stronger and eventually leave the hospital with their families. When disaster strikes, it is pivotal to continue to seamlessly support and care for these fragile babies and their families,” said Mike Wargo, HCA Healthcare vice president of enterprise emergency operations.

“By standing up HCA Healthcare’s NICU Incident Support (NICU IST) Team, our EEOC is building on our capabilities to respond in crisis situations optimally. When every second counts, this highly-skilled team of registered nurses and respiratory therapists will stand ready to deploy to impacted zones to give our NICU families fast access to care transportation.”

Mike Wargo, HCA Healthcare vice president of enterprise emergency operations

Standing ready

A single mission connects our HCA Healthcare family: Above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life. In the most difficult moments, we see that commitment displayed in a profound way.

As hurricane season continues, HCA Healthcare is ready, focused and proud to serve our patients in the face of any challenge that comes our way.

HCA Healthcare's NICU Incident Response Team smiling for photo on helipad in front of helicopter.
HCA Healthcare’s NICU Incident Support Team (NICU IST) stands ready to seamlessly support the transfer of patients in midst of natural disasters like hurricanes.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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