In the Midwest, the weather has left cities and communities devastated between the flooding to tornadoes. On Tuesday, May 28th, set a record in Oklahoma for 12 consecutive days where tornadoes were spotted and impacted communities. Meteorologists are saying that we are in uncharted territory, noting that the lack of time between tornadoes is an issue.
From there, several cities in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and others in the Midwestern region have been under tornado or flood warnings. In moments like this, what is the role of healthcare professionals during these natural disaster situations.
In the healthcare industry, natural disasters are responsible for over 500 deaths and $15 billion in damages each year. In the Midwest region, an area prone to tornadoes, it’s imperative that a hospital has a plan set in place on how to stay safe in a tornado watch.
There are three separate steps that hospitals typically follow when a tornado warning or watch happens:
There are three different kinds of evacuation plans that hospital follows depending on the urgency of a tornado watch or warning. Horizontal evacuation is moving patients from one building to the next. Vertical evacuation is moving from a higher floor to the lowest floor possible. Finally, total evacuation is everyone leaves the facility.
The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program by FEMA allows for hospitals to get the funding in areas prone to tornadoes to reinforce windows and storm shelters.
Each hospital is responsible for their own plans on how to stay safe in a tornado warning and watch. This can be broken down by each facility, each wing and section inside a facility and nurses with patients. It’s important to medical professionals to have the right technology to listen when weather is going to change.
A nurses overall role in any natural disaster is to provide the best patient care that is currently possible. It’s stated, “nurses are uniquely qualified to manage emergency situations because they can perform the proper assessments, prioritize injuries, communicate effectively, and collaborate with others who are responding.” This allows for nurses to provide the right judgement calls for patients regarding the best treatment to keep the patient safe and comfortable.
However, if a disaster strikes a nearby town where a nurse is located, if this nurse is not in the hospital there could be repercussions for treating others. There are laws in place that prohibit nurses in certain states to respond to disasters without a specialized certification and even lose their license. Nurses are often some of the first people who enter a disaster scene who coordinate with emergency personnel about the next steps to take.
The most important notion for healthcare professionals to understand during a natural disaster is to keep the system functioning as best as possible and continue to provide care as best as possible.
If you find yourself or a loved one injured after a tornado, do not move or move this person. Please wait for medical personnel to get to the scene.
At the end of the day, it’s important for families in the Midwest to always be prepared for a tornado. Here’s a comprehensive list of resources and preparation to follow on how to stay safe in a tornado.
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