Health facilities ready to face storm

By Bill Colvard -
This 20,000-gallon tank holds enough fuel to power Northern Hospital for about 15 days. - Bill Colvard | The News

The local hospital and area care facilities have declared they are prepared for whatever Hurricane Florence brings.

“We’re in good shape,” said Greg Casstevens, director of facility services for Northern Hospital of Surry County, on Wednesday. “Hospitals have been forced to think of these things for years. There have been lessons learned.”

He said Joint Commission Standards that all accredited hospitals must follow were put in place following Hurricane Katrina.

Northern Hospital has a 96-hour plan which includes food and all other resources so that the facility can be self-sustaining for four full days from any given moment.

“Then we have backup,” said Casstevens.

The hospital’s generators operate on both natural gas and fuel oil and can switch back and forth between the two, as needed.

“That tank out there,” said Casstevens, pointing to an enormous fuel tank on the other side of the cafeteria windows, “it holds 20,000 gallons of #2 fuel oil. We’ve actually done calculations, and with a full load, depending on the time of year, it could run the hospital for roughly 15 consecutive days.”

Casstevens said the system is tested weekly and is ready to go. Food and other supplies are also under control.

“We’ve been in constant discussions with our delivery service. They’re doing limited deliveries on Friday. Since we aren’t sure if we’ll get anything on Friday, we ordered heavy early in the week. We’ve got enough of everything to get us into next week.”

Casstevens only sees one potential problem. There may not be enough fresh cucumbers for the salad bar, and some may need to be acquired locally before the storm hits.

“But if the biggest problem we have is cucumbers, I think we’ll be alright.”

In anticipation of the storm the hospital has stocked up on all supplies including medications and is well stocked with blood, according to Ashly Lancaster, director of marketing and communications.

Lancaster added that scheduled staff are responsible for their own transportation to the hospital. “However, we do provide overnight accommodations for scheduled staff who choose to stay or who may not be able to travel home due to road conditions.”

Area nursing homes say they are also prepared for emergencies, including a storm that might disrupt electricity and deliveries.

“We have huge generators. We’re good for at least a week,” said Wanda Howlett, Surry Community Health and Rehabilitation administrator. “We’ve been in contact with our corporate office and local emergency officials. We’re ready.”

Howlett added that her staff had acquired extra food and extra supplies, as well.

“Our company has buildings on the coast, and we may be called on to take in some of their people if they need to come further inland.”

Michael Fink, executive director of RidgeCrest, said his team has been meeting twice a day to prepare for the storm, and has put in a system to communicate effectively with the families of residents by text, email or phone.

“We have a checklist, and we review it every day at 4 p.m. We’ve tested our emergency equipment, and brought in extra lights and mattresses for staff that may be staying over.

“We’re good for five to seven days,” said Fink. “We’ve ordered some extra grills, so we’ll be able to cook in any type of fashion necessary.”

Fink added that he thought Duke Energy has done an excellent job of making sure trees close to power lines are cut prior to the storm.

RidgeCrest’s parent company has 14 facilities throughout the East Coast, mostly in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, and some of those communities have been evacuated. None have come to Mount Airy. They have gone to locations closer by, and Mount Airy has no plans at this time to take in any residents displaced by the storm.

This 20,000-gallon tank holds enough fuel to power Northern Hospital for about 15 days. 20,000-gallon tank holds enough fuel to power Northern Hospital for about 15 days. Bill Colvard | The News

By Bill Colvard

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.