In the face of a natural disaster like Hurricane Irma, special-needs patients are certainly the most vulnerable among us. Patients who are dependent upon machines for oxygen or other life-supporting assistance will most certainly be in dire straits if the electricity goes out like it did for six million people in Florida this weekend.
In times like these, communities tend to buckle down and work together. Hospitals are opened up as shelters for the non-mobile or in the case of this weekend, when nowhere in the entire state was deemed safe. Special shelters exist for these people who rely on electricity for life; they bone down to a skeleton crew that has been trained for such an event and they have backup generators to keep these special-needs persons alive.
Hospitals and other types of medical facilities in Florida are prepared for such an event. They identify their crew in advance and train during lesser storms in order to provide the right level of care for special-needs kids and others with critical medical needs.
Following Hurricane Katrina and Rita new benchmarks for care arose for vulnerable populations. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a major failing to get hospital corporations to put rules in place that protect patients, and we've seen this in our medical malpractice cases: system failures that weren't addressed until after we sued the hospital, for example.
In the case of a natural disaster the best thing that you can do is to properly evaluate the risk for a special-needs friend or family member. Doing the research on the best-equipped hospital shelters with the most prepared crews will do a lot to make sure your loved one is safe during a natural disaster. Some special-needs persons may not be especially mobile, and so finding the right shelter is the number one thing on the list of priorities while preparing for a hurricane.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) "Hospitals are required by laws, regulations, and accreditation requirements to plan for disasters." State and federal guidelines governing the responsibilities of hospitals are in place to be followed to keep patients safe during a national disaster like a hurricane.
It's even more critical to plan ahead when you have a special-needs child.
Fortunately, we are seeing mostly happy endings coming out of what could have been a totally devastating hurricane event. We saw one event in which a woman delivered her own baby with the assistance of an over-the-phone dispatcher because the paramedics could not get to her during Irma. In another event from the same area in Miami-Dade, firefighters were able to contain a fire with the of the power company which shut down the grid.