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HCC Response to Heating Crisis Keeps 2,000 Residents Warm and Home for the Holidays

L'Anse, MI
December 2016​

Inimage of an propane heater attached to a home in snowy Michigan the dead of a Midwestern winter just before the holidays, a​ young driver fell asleep at the wheel of his car, crashing into a natural gas pipe station in the predominately tribal community of L'Anse, Michigan. 1,200 residences, a long-term care facility, and a critical access hospital were left without heat as the temperature dropped to 25 degrees. While the hospital had a backup heat source, the long-term care facility did not, leaving 50 fragile long-term care residents in a critical situation. Thanks to years of exercising and training together, Michigan’s Region 8 Health Care Coalition (HCC) members were prepared to respond. HCC members rapidly coordinated a supplemental heating plan for the long-term care facility using heating equipment acquired with Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) funding. As a result, patients were able to continue receiving care in their facility throughout the three-day gas outage and were not forced to risk complications by evacuating 60 miles across the rural region to another facility.

In addition to keeping the long-term care patients safe, HCC members cared for over 2,000 other community residents whose homes also lost heat due to the accident. The HCC coordinated with county emergency management, the tribal health care agency, and the county health department to establish three emergency warming stations around the community, providing lifesaving heat and provisions for residents, many of whom could not afford or access their own backup heat sources and may have become sick, injured, or died from exposure to the bitter cold. HCC members used cots, bedding, and heat sources from their HPP-funded cache of supplies and equipment to furnish the warming stations. Thanks to the HCC’s efficient response, L’Anse residents were able to spend the holidays in their community, safe from the elements.

The HCC’s strong relationships, communication, and coordinated plans developed through years of HPP-funded exercises, as well as their robust cache of HPP-funded emergency equipment, prevented any loss of life during the multi-day heating crisis. The coordinated preparation and response meant that even the most vulnerable community members did not have to leave their community. "Without HCC support, members of our community may have suffered hypothermia and related life-threatening conditions or have been forced to evacuate, separating families during the holiday season,” noted Mr. Jonathan Stone, the Michigan Region 8 HCC coordinator. “Our HCC would not have been able to support and serve our community without HPP funding, training, and guidance. When we look around our community, we see people whose lives have benefited directly from HPP."