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A Florida HCC’s Preparedness Activities Enhance Response ​during Hurricane Michael

Mexico Beach, FL​.
October 2018

Hurricane Michael made landfall on Mexico Beach, Florida in October 2018 as a Category 5 hurricane, and was later designated the strongest storm on record to hit the Florida Panhandle. The areas of Florida most impacted by Hurricane Michael are served by the Emerald Coast Health Care Coalition (HCC), which receives funding through the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) cooperative agreement.

The Emerald Coast HCC, which covers more than 10 counties in Northwest Florida, facilitates collaboration across its 600 participating organizations and works to strengthen the acute care medical surge capacity of hospitals in the region. Members of the Emerald Coast HCC have access to activities and exercises that maximize their ability to respond to emergencies and disasters.

In November 2017, the coalition used HPP funds to conduct regional trainings and tabletop exercises, including the Coalition Surge Test (CST), which is an exercise all HCCsconduct annually to identify gaps in surge and response readiness. These activities provide opportunities for coalition staff to test evacuation plans and procedures, as well as develop strategies for successful responses to disasters and emergencies. By participating in HPP-funded activities, like the CST, the Emerald Coast HCC was able to build a base level of readiness long before disaster struck.

“If the HCC had not pushed us to complete the CST tabletop exercise, we might have failed to execute a timely response,” said representatives of the Bay Medical Center. “Thanks to the training and preparation exercises facilitated by the Emerald Coast HCC, we had the right forms and supplies in place to successfully evacuate within 36 hours.”

The coalition’s preparedness activities were instrumental in their coordinated response to Hurricane Michael. As the storm approached, the coalition contacted the State of Florida, who facilitated the evacuation of more than 6,000 patients from health care facilities over the course of eight days. Coalition contacts worked together to make the calls needed to provide evacuation assistance, and the State of Florida Department of Health, Division of Preparedness and State agents working under FEMA’s Emergency Support Function 8 (ESF-8) worked with federal entities to provide the evacuation equipment, personnel, and patient tracking. Throughout the response, the coalition worked with the state and its health care partners to share information.

By participating in HPP-funded preparedness exercises, the Emerald Coast HCC was able to reduce the burden on individual facilities and maintain high quality of care for those affected by the hurricane.

Hurricane Michael Fast Facts

wind symbolSustained Winds of more than 160 miles per hour

plug symbolPower outages for more than 1.2 million people

hospitalEvacuation of 74 health care facilities