BHealthy Blog

When Severe Weather Threatens, We Get Ready

Doug Weeks, Senior Vice President/Administrator Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock & Baptist Health Rehabilitation Institute

As you know, a destructive tornado moved through the city of Joplin, Missouri on Sunday evening, killing and injuring hundreds of people. One of the local hospitals, St. John’s Regional Medical Center was seriously damaged in the storm.

Over the next two days, severe weather including the potential for a significant tornado outbreak is forecast to take place in multiple states including Arkansas.

I thought it would be valuable for you to know that Baptist Health has in place a very well rehearsed hospital preparedness plan specifically for tornadoes and/or severe weather. Some of the more prominent aspects of this plan include:

  • Receiving advance alerts from the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Little Rock the day prior to predicted severe bouts of weather.
  • A number of areas and individuals within Baptist Health are responsible for monitoring potentially dangerous weather including MedFlight, which cannot fly under severe weather conditions. Our helicopter is actually moved off site once weather comes within 25 miles of our campus, depending on severity. This not only acts as an early warning system, it also allows us to determine the path of the storm giving us the opportunity to make decisions to prepare the hospital accordingly.
  • A number of initiatives are being completed to protect personnel and patients in the hospital. One is installing ballistic 3M safety film on windows that have an impact profile tied into the frame of the window. This adds strength to our windows and greatly reduces the chance of breakage.
  • The Little Rock campus has three sources of power:  feeds from two separate Entergy substations as well as our own emergency generators. Our emergency generator plant can power the entire campus for approximately three days without refueling if necessary. The generator plant is housed in a building that was built to withstand a direct hit from an EF3 tornado.
  • Storms headed our way are monitored through our AWIN radio system that allows us to monitor EMS crews, Office of Emergency Management, and the National Weather Service as a weather event is developing. This will allow us to know whether there is damage associated with the storm, whether it is producing a tornado, whether it has a history of producing a tornado, and if first responders have been called out to respond to damage or rescue individuals impacted by the storm.
  • There is a strong network of hospitals in metropolitan Little Rock area that participate in a coordinated effort to assist each other in the event any hospital is directly impacted. The process of evacuating a large facility and providing patient care for the impacted hospital has been planned for and coordinated. Each participating facility has access to EMSystem, an internet tracking database where each hospital can quickly update their patient census in real time as well as assess each hospital’s capacity for movement of patients if a hospital had to be evacuated.
  • BHMC-LR has actually had the experience of distributing patients during the aftermath of the 2008 evacuation of patients from Hurricane Gustav. Little Rock metropolitan hospitals received 225 patients from that evacuation.

Our medical center is prepared and will be focused if a severe weather event occurs.