BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - In times of emergency, making sure medical care is ready to go starts with the Louisiana Emergency Response Network (LERN), which was created in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It acts like a kind of control tower, gathering information from state officials and monitoring hospitals and emergency services throughout the state. Each day, LERN can see what resources are available or unavailable at any hospital in the state, and help direct patients accordingly.
When disaster strikes, they can send resources to where they're needed, for example, sending a fleet of ambulances when evacuations are issued. They also make sure hospitals are not overwhelmed.
"Can we access a hospital, does a hospital have outages such as electrical or water? So we relay information back and forth with hospitals on their generator status, their availability of their emergency department to take on patients," said LERN administrative director, Chris Hector.
One of the resources closely watched is a facility's emergency power source. Emergency power is also one of the bigger investments made by Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge.
The Lake could be considered a city within a city. It employees 7,000 employees and houses up to 600 patients, preforms around 65 surgeries daily, serves over 1,500 patient meals, and cleans more than 20,000 pounds of laundry daily. In short, losing power isn't really an option.
While hospitals are required to have enough emergency power to keep lifesaving medical equipment and procedures going, that minimum requirement does not cover amenities like air conditioning. That's something the Lake learned the hard way after a 24-hour outage during Hurricane Gustav. The next year, the Lake invested around $20 million to expand its emergency power capability, tripling their natural gas generator capacity.
"It's 8.5 megawatts of emergency power and it can actually operate the entire hospital, everything, for a sustainable amount of time after a hurricane or a natural disaster event," explained VP of facilities and construction, Jeff Mosely. "You don't see this in very many healthcare facilities in the country."
Meanwhile, other local hospitals are making their own preparations ahead of the storm, making sure medical care is always available.
"Our staff regularly conducts drills to help prepare for a variety of emergency-related events, from inclement weather to chemical incidents," said Baton Rouge General spokeswoman, Rebekah Johnson Maricelli.