Surviving the Storms Surviving the Storms - Page 3

EVACUATION EFFORTS - Hurricane Irma’s impacts crippled St. Thomas, requiring activation of the Federal Coordination Center, a joint U.S. Health and Human Services and VA effort to evacuate more than 90 patients from the devastated island. In these photos from San Juan, Puerto Rico, in early September 2017, VA Caribbean staff were part of a team of federal, state and local partners who coordinated the patient reception, medical triaging and relocation of evacuees to Puerto Rican hospitals, including the San Juan VA Medical Center. The VA’s fourth mission is being prepared to answer the public’s call for help. Photos by Axel Roman

On Sept. 10, the hurricane made landfall on the U.S. mainland in the Florida Keys as a Category 4, traveled to Marco Island as a Category 3, and moved up the state as a Category 1, leaving Florida on Sept. 12 as a tropical storm.

Irma spent 8.5 days as a major hurricane, the second most in the satellite era (since 1966) and trailing only Hurricane Ivan in 2004, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

All of Florida’s VA hospitals weathered the storm well with only minor damage. One reason is that the exterior buildings, roof and windows of all VISN 8 hospitals are constructed to withstand hurricane force winds ranging in intensity for their specific locations.

Located in the heart of Hurricane Alley, if there’s one thing the VA Sunshine Healthcare Network is – it’s prepared.

Before the storm hit, already robust emergency plans were activated and validated. Emergency Operations Centers stood up at each of the main hospitals and at the networks’ Emergency Management Coordination Center. Tim Liezert, the Orlando VAMC Director who was also the Acting VISN 8 Director, served as Incident Commander. The response and recovery effort was coordinated by VIctor Ramos, VISN 8 Emergency Manager.

A minimum of seven to 10 days of fuel to support emergency generator backup power, boiler operations and water were the lifeblood of VISN 8 hospitals during the hurricanes as it enables us to maintain the level of care for our patients for a specified

amount of time – regardless

of the state of commercially-provided water and utilities, according to officials.

Over 50 community clinics were closed to ensure VA staff remained safe until the storm passed.

And while all VAMCs continued to operate during the storm, the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center in St. Petersburg—which was in an evacuation zone--transferred over 200 of their most vulnerable patients on Sept. 9 to sister VA facilities in Tampa, Orlando, Gainesville and Lake City, Fla.

Continues on pg 5

03

SURVIVING THE STORMS

HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE

Hurricane Irma’s impacts crippled several Caribbean islands, requiring activation of the Federal Coordination Center, a joint U.S. Health and Human Services and VA effort. Over 90 patients were evacuated to San Juan in early September 2017. In these photos, VA Caribbean staff were part of a team of federal, state and local partners who coordinated the patient reception, medical triaging and relocation of evacuees to hospitals in Puerto Rico, including the San Juan VA Medical Center. The VA’s fourth mission is being prepared to answer the public’s call for help.

Photos by Rodolfo Barrios