• Hurricane Season 2014

    Posted on June 1st, 2014

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    Are You Ready?

    As of today, it has been 3,142 days since the last Category 3 hurricane came ashore in the United States. That blows away the record for the longest period between major hurricanes since 1900. Does that make you feel more secure or more worried?

    Hurricane Wilma is the last storm of consequence in the collective South Florida memory, and that was in 2005. Is it a continued quiet period, or are we overdue?

    And it’s been almost 30 years since an NBA team has advanced to the Finals for four straight years, that being of course, your Miami HEAT. (Thanks to team physician and Doctors Hospital Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine orthopedic surgeon Dr. Harlan Selesnick for keeping the players healthy). Does that make it sure thing, or has our luck run out? (I know, bad example – it is a sure thing!)

    So, those impressive statistics and how we might apply them in predicting how the rest of this hurricane season will go, mean precisely…nada. As a coastal community, we are always vulnerable, and as a healthcare provider and irreplaceable community resource, we must always prepare and maintain our readiness.

    I remain confident that we have done so. The underpinning of our readiness is the highly motivated people of Baptist Health, who take seriously our not-for-profit faith-based mission of caring for our community. They prove it every day, but never more so than in a crisis.

    We continue to invest in the hurricane hardening of our hospitals and support buildings, ensuring the safety of our patients and staff, and the continued availability of care when it is most needed.

    Our Emergency Response Team, made up of employees from all over our organization, makes itself continuously ready and available at a moment’s notice to respond to hurricanes or other emergencies. The 37-member team represents every hospital and entity at Baptist Health. We train and train for emergencies, to the extent of sending more than 100 staff members on three medical mission trips to Haiti to do good work, but also to hone their skills in functioning in the kind of arduous environment we could see in Florida after a major storm.

    To prepare for Hurricane Season and crisis response, Baptist Health relocated from Doral and upgraded our entire Telehealth Center to higher ground at our corporate headquarters. The Telehealth Center houses our electronic ICU (eICU), which remotely monitors patients in our hospitals, and our Transfer Center, which coordinates patient moves to, within and from our facilities. This improves accessibility to our Incident Command operations, which are run out of our corporate office during emergencies.

    We have significantly strengthened our medical staff infrastructure with the growth of the Baptist Health Medical Group and the alignment of our community physicians with the Baptist Health Quality Network. We have added additional resources in critical specialties, such as general surgery and orthopedics, likely to be tested during a crisis. We have three brand new Baptist Health Primary Care locations opening in strategic locations throughout our community. These very timely openings in the next few weeks will add experienced and enthusiastic new family- and internal-medicine physicians as critical community assets that will aid in preparation, quick recovery, and emergency department decompression.

    Enormous thanks to the indefatigable Dr. Jack Ziffer for bringing these changes to life, his visionary physician leadership, and for recruiting Dr. Bernie Fernandez to this team. These measures are sure to help us mobilize in the wake of a crisis.

    To help our own employees prepare for the season, we have held four Hurricane Fairs, providing them with supplies and information about how they should prepare beginning in June. The peace of mind that their homes and families are as ready as can be is one more critical part of being able to perform in hurricane conditions.

    Baptist Health is fortunate to have in place a Department of Emergency Preparedness, further evidence of our commitment to keeping our facilities operational in an emergency situation like a hurricane. They continue to drive our readiness and are nationally recognized for their innovative work on our behalf.

    In fact, this department has improved our ability for Baptist Health to communicate, making it stronger than ever. We continue to have the Everbridge system in place, which allows us to communicate with all of our employees simultaneously via phone, e-mail and text messaging. We created a drill for our CEOs that synchronized our communication options in case of sequential loss of landlines, cell phones, text, e-mail and walkie talkies, so we can maintain contact for crisp and timely decision making. We will be piloting satellite phone communications this year as well.

    Baptist Health’s PineApp continues to evolve as a communication tool and will be used for this purpose this year. Our Twitter account @BaptistHealthSF will be part of the communication stream. I highly recommend downloading Hurricane Tracker App, and to follow them on Twitter @HurrTrackerApp. Of course, this blog, Weathering the Storms, is now activated for the 2014 season.

    Finally, one of our quiet strengths is people with real-time experience forged in crisis. That is a rare commodity. The longevity and stability of our staff and leadership means that none of this is new to us. All of our entities’ CEOs have experience in hurricane preparedness and response and will be in their respective Incident Command Centers leading their teams of employees and staying tightly coordinated with each other as a system. You cannot buy the experience these leaders bring.

    Are you ready? (Yes, I’m ready)
    I’ve got to know, yeah (Yes, I’m ready)
    You sound real good (Yes, I’m ready)
    Are you ready? (Yes, I’m ready)
    Gonna be sunshine again (Yes, I’m ready)
    And the flowers growing (Yes, I’m ready)
    Children playing (Yes, I’m ready)
    Gonna be alright.

    Are You Ready, Pacific Gas and Electric

  • Hurricane Season 2013

    Posted on June 28th, 2013

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    Good Neighbors are Easy to Follow

    Most of the Baptist Health hospitals are right in the middle of neighborhoods.  In some cases, the neighbors were not there when the hospital was built.  But over the years, houses were built and people moved in as close as across the street. 

    South Miami Hospital is bordered on one side by the Manor Lane neighborhood.  Doctors Hospital is in the heart of Coral Gables with three sides bordered by residences and one side bordered by the University of Miami. 

    In the case of Homestead Hospital and West Kendall Baptist Hospital, both were brand new and built on green fields with very few or no adjacent neighbors.  Very quickly, though, we have seen that these local hospitals have served – beyond the primary mission of care – as economic engines of growth and opportunity for these communities. 

    In the Homestead community, Homestead Hospital triggered a transformative boom in East Homestead that is still underway five years later.  Aerial photos show housing, shopping and major infrastructure improvements for miles around the hospital site. 

    The same thing is happening at West Kendall Baptist Hospital, at an even more accelerated pace.  As West Kendall establishes it own identity as part of greater Miami, the hospital truly contributes to the sense of place. 

    In the older and more established communities around Baptist, South Miami and Doctors Hospitals, the hospitals are fully part of the fabric of day-to-day life.  There are also some interesting benefits to being close by.  Of course, instant access in an emergency is a comforting thought for many in surrounding neighborhoods.  But an added benefit for these residents is following the hospitals’ lead in storm preparations.

    I have been told by neighbors many, many times over the years that they don’t pay much attention to the news stations when a storm is approaching, as they find it stressful.  What they do pay attention to are the activities of the hospital, most particularly something as commonplace as the shutters on the buildings.  For many people, that is when they know it is time to get ready for a storm. 

    An older patient, who happened to live a few blocks away from one of our hospitals told me that we had saved him thousands of dollars over the last 20 years.  This was an interesting comment that you don’t often hear in my job!  When I asked him how so, he said that he had to hire someone to put up his aluminum shutters once he got past a certain age.  By waiting until the hospital starting closing its shutters (which we have done judiciously over the years), he had avoided many, many unnecessary costs.  Unlike some folks, he could not stand to put up the shutters and leave them up, too depressing.  But taking them up and down was too expensive, so we became his trigger. 

    Now that there are fewer shutters, as more and more of the glass is hurricane hardened, you have to look a little closer to see us getting ready, but you can still see it happening. 

    Another hidden benefit:  As a vital community service, the hospital and the adjacent community, are first to get back on the power grid after a storm.  If you have lived through days and weeks of no power, as many of us long time residents have, this benefit is, as they say, priceless.

    Keep an eye out as a storm threatens and remember to turn to Weathering the Storms, as well, for clues to when you should get your house and family ready to weather the storm. 

    “Neighbor you are so good, I love the way you walk.
    Neighbor you are so cool, I love the way you talk.
    Sing you a song from morning to night
    Waiting for the summer sun”

     HighlifeSonny Okusson

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  • Hurricane Season 2013

    Posted on June 6th, 2013

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    Andrea Forms and Tracking is Key

    With the development yesterday of Tropical Storm Andrea, Hurricane Season 2013 is officially underway.  While much of South Florida will be impacted by rain, and tornado watches were issued earlier today, the brunt of the impact will be felt along the central west coast of Florida.

    Following this storm’s path reminded me how important and accessible hurricane tracking has become in recent years.  The tools and technology we have at our fingertips provide valuable information about approaching storms, and I find them extremely helpful in our hurricane planning. 

    Twitter is one of these tools.  Sure, it is used a lot for fun, but I have found that there are a significant number of Twitter users who can be very helpful in hurricane preparation. 

    The thing about this social media app that is appealing to me is that, for the most part, you are only receiving messages from those that you have decided to actively follow.  Therefore, in this case, I can recommend to you a number of people or organizations to follow that have proven to provide up-to-the-second information when there is a storm approaching. 

    They also tend to give plenty of advice and direction.  Among the ones I find most useful are:


    As for weather apps on the iPhone and iPad, I find a few helpful in keeping me updated on a storm’s progress.  The first is Hurricane Tracker.  This works for me as an all-around hurricane app.  With its tracking maps, notifications and alerts from the National Hurricane Center, access to NOAA Weather Radio and forecaster updates fed in real time, I find it extremely useful.  I also use two other apps, IMaps Weather Plus and NOAA Radar Pro, to keep me up-to-date, although there are many other good ones available.

     It doesn’t seem like very long ago that the only way to keep track of an oncoming storm was to watch TV, most notably tuning into updates from meteorologist Bryan Norcross, and when that failed, a battery powered radio. 

     Technology has accelerated beyond our wildest dreams, predictability has improved, but once a storm hits, it is back to fundamentals.

     “All the little birdies on Jaybird Street, love to hear the robin go tweet, tweet, tweet.”
    – Michael Jackson’s 1972 version of Rockin’ Robin

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  • Hurricane Season 2013

    Posted on May 31st, 2013

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    The 2013 Season Begins

    Storm season starts June 1, and experts are predicting a busy season with 13 to 20 named storms, five potentially major. 

    As we have noted many times in this blog, what really matters is not the predictions, but whether your community gets a serious storm.  Certainly the wild and unpredictable weather across the United States this year has us a little more on edge than normal.

    We stayed busy sharpening our preparation during the off season through active participation in Miami- Dade County, South Florida and Florida exercises.  Director of Baptist Health’s Emergency Preparedness division Jean Arias, R.N., and Medical Director John Braden, M.D., served as co-chairs of the Miami-Dade County Hospital Consortium on Emergency Preparedness.  Chris Kilroy, also from our Emergency Preparedness division and Barbara Russell, R.N., from Baptist Hospital Infection Control, both chair committees from this same organization.

    We continue to maintain and upgrade the system-wide Emergency Response team.  Thanks to the following individuals for continuing to serve, train and be available on a moment’s notice:  Eleni Alvarez, R.N., Julio Arellana, Jorge Benitez, Ester Birchall, R.N., Ron Burke, R.N., Jorge Cardenas, Melanie Diaz, R.N., Miguel Diaz, Josue Erzo, R.N., Antonio Exposito, Edgar Fandino, Chuck Farias, Joel Fleitas, Daniel Gonzalez, Jonathan Gonzalez, R.N., Rene Gonzalez, Janniree Gutierrez, Donna Hastick, Elmer Loaiza, Luis Lopez, David Mahabir, Rajesh Maragh, Lyndsay Mesh, R.N., Andrew Miller, R.N., Ross Miller, Marion Mooney, R.N., Martin Nariznis, R.N., Luis Osorio, Rodolfo Perez, Zachary Perez, Marie Pestana-Garcia, R.N., Rafael Rivera-Lopez, R.N., David Rodriguez, R.N., Luis Rodriguez, Thomas Rotondi, Renato Solera, R.N., Stephen Tessier, R.N., Israel Vasquez, Fernando Vega, Rick Whitehurst, R.N., Chris Whitt, and Emilio Xiques.  Again, thanks for staying ready.

    We have done much more to keep ourselves at a high level of readiness, including live training in international hot spots, local full-scale exercises centered on a terrorist scenario, and education for staff and physicians on hazmat life support, mass trauma care, and fundamental disaster management.  As we have seen this year, no scenario can be ruled out and as much as we are focused here in South Florida on hurricane activity, we train for all hazards.

    So, it is time to review your plans, both your hospital department, outpatient center, and personal home readiness plan for this season.  Mayor Gimenez said today in The Miami Herald, “All of us hope for a quiet storm season, but just hoping things will go well really isn’t a plan.”  The Mayor makes an excellent point and therefore we train, practice and execute our plans, (hope too!). 

    “The Heat was hot and the ground was dry, but the air was full of sound”
    A Horse With No Name –  America

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