Hurricane Preparedness Week is May 29 – June 4, and to help long-term care facilities prepare for an emergency, members of Public Health Preparedness and Healthcare Quality recently held the South Carolina Health Care Facility Hurricane Workshop. The workshop included several exercises and served as a time for nursing homes and community residential care facilities to learn, share, and discuss the best methods to properly prepare for the circumstances caused by hurricanes.
“These exercises are a great opportunity to get people together to train hands-on,” said Dave Harbison of DHEC’s Bureau of Public Health Preparedness “Virtual training and resource materials can supplement, but they can’t substitute”
“Testing your plan using real-life scenarios is an effective way to identify and fill gaps before a real-life event,” he said. “Advanced planning and practice mean you’re keeping the people in your facility safe so you have the best possible outcome in a possibly life-threatening situation.”
Facilities discussed ideas and experiences from previous situations, and those who attended walked away with new practices they intend to incorporate into their evacuation plans.
“You think about sending residents with their loved ones,” said Rachel Butler, St. Gabriel of Murrells Inlet. “What I didn’t think about was being stuck in traffic or not factoring in health issues or complications. Those are key points for me to have on the back burner so I can have a Plan B, and I’m not scrambling at the last minute.”
“I am in a county that borders the coast, and some of the facilities we supervise do have to evacuate,” said Stacey Jordan of Maryville and Jessamine Community Residence. “The discussions other facilities had about their plans made me think about our primary evacuation facility and how we may need a secondary evacuation location.”
The facilities in attendance are overseen by several divisions in Healthcare Quality. Those representing Healthcare Quality were Geoffrey Calloway, Director of the Nursing Home Division in the Bureau of Community Care; JoMonica Taylor, Director of the Residential Facilities Division in the Bureau of Community Care; and Rich Wisniewski, Director of the EMS Division in the Bureau of Healthcare Systems and Services.
“The exercises were beneficial to the facilities,” JoMonica said. “It was a pleasure collaborating with Public Health to serve our regulated community, and I hope this is an exercise that continues in the future.”
“The training provided was very informative,” Geoffrey said. “This is my first time being introduced to South Carolina’s major disaster process planning. It reminds me of the Incident Command System planning process.”
DHEC encourages everyone to properly prepare for an emergency such as a hurricane. The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1 and lasts for six months. To learn more about how you can prepare for hurricane season, click here. You can also view SCEMD’s 2022 South Carolina Hurricane Guide and download their SC Emergency Manager App by clicking here.
From a COVID-19 standpoint, DHEC encourages residents to get their initial vaccinations and their boosters when eligible. These are especially important when evacuating to other states to prevent the likelihood of spreading COVID-19 in other areas or in your community when returning home.
Residents should also use the CDC County Check map to track disease activity in the county they’re evacuating to and keep masks in case community spread is medium or high. Lastly, South Carolinians are encouraged to keep rapid antigen at-home test kits on hand while traveling in case family members start experiencing symptoms and need to be tested. You can get no cost rapid antigen at-home test kits frompublic health departments or covidtests.gov.
To learn more DHEC’s role during hurricanes, click here.