BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - As the end of the Atlantic hurricane season draws near, the next round of storm preparedness is just beginning for Baton Rouge General’s emergency coordinator, Alyson Hughes.
For Hughes, the months ahead will consist of organizing lessons learned during this season to be added to the hospital’s codes and procedures guide, a book noticeably bright red in color and easily accessible for staffers on the hospital’s various campuses.
“Every year, we do an annual risk assessment. We sit down with a team of people and we look at our risk. Whether it be weather-related, disasters, or technical failures, that’s where the process actually starts,” Huges said. “Once we have that risk assessment in place, that’s where we start to focus on the things we’re most vulnerable for.”
The hospital’s next big lesson will come from a system expected to merge with an approaching cold front and will contribute to what was already expected to be a rainy pattern along much of the Gulf Coast.
“We don’t want to overreact, but we do want to proceed with caution," Hughes said about preparing for weather-related emergencies.
Ahead of the storm, the hospital will work to prepare for the typical things most people need to consider in their own weather emergency plans, including wind, rising water, and the possibility staffers won’t be able to receive supplies in a routine manner, but on a larger scale. Most of those preparations have already been ironed out because of storms that arrived earlier in the season.
"With Hurricane Barry, we anticipated we may lose power. We made sure our generator tanks were topped off,” said Hughes. “For similar weather events, the risk could be flooding. Living in this community, we’ve all experienced that for the last couple of years.”
In an amazing show of fellowship, staffers will work on predetermined schedules planned around the storm to prevent any difficulty getting to work. They’ll lean on each other and cover for each other to best serve the needs of their patients. Even hospitals normally thought to be competing against each other will assess the best ways to help each other.
"Day to day, we do compete with one another, but in a disaster, we lock arms and we know we are dependent one on another. We do recognize that we need each other,” said Hughes.
Most importantly, hospital staff will prepare to help out their neighbors in need from the coastal parishes where healthcare facilities may have fewer resources. Even for special situations that may arise during the storm, like a crisis at one of Louisiana’s many industrial facilities.
“We have a unique situation in south Louisiana. We have a lot of industries. One of the big things we plan for is the receipt of patients that may have hazardous materials on them. We have a very robust hospital emergency response team. They’re trained in decontamination. We have the ability to wash patients who have the materials on them,” said Hughes.
Other situations that require less of a specialty response will be treated as mass influx situations. Plans typically remain consistent across the board for potential emergencies during events with an expected high number of patients, including an upcoming rally for Vice President Mike Pence in Baton Rouge.
“When we plan for large events such as a rally, or mass influx because of a storm, it’s the same as thing as college football around here in south Louisiana.”
Outside of the upcoming rally and storm preps, the hospital will spend the next couple of months reviewing plans to deal with emerging threats, including cybersecurity threats that have impacted the state.
Hughes hopes her knack for planning will inspire others to review what worked and didn’t work for them during emergencies.
“What makes it rewarding for me is that I’ve chosen this work to serve the community. I feel like [having a plan] is meaningful. It saves lives,” said Hughes.