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EMA Winter Weather Drill, Hospitals Prepared
Hospital staffers met at EMA office for winter weather emergency drill.

Wed, Dec 6, 2017 at 11:00 PM

EMA drill shows hospitals are ready for winter weather emergency

With winter on the way, emergency drill confirms Marshall Medical's preparedness for a weather emergency.

Marshall Medical Centers North and South proved they are prepared to operate during severe winter weather during a countywide drill designed to test that readiness. 

“They do an excellent job,” said Marshall County EMA Director Anita McBurnett. 

The exercise, called “Cold Mountain,” brought cold temperatures and snow, paralyzing the area. To further worsen things, an area nursing home caught fire after a generator exploded, and another had a tree smash through its roof. The injured victims were transported in emergency vehicles to hospitals, which could not discharge other patients who were ready to leave because they had no way to get home. 

Ten employees represented the hospitals at the drill held at the EMA office in Guntersville. Emergency directors stated they could take care of all the patients, as well as feeding them and the staff. 

“It won’t be gourmet but we can do it,” said Renee Jordan, ER director at Marshall South. 

Staffs trained and facilities are prepared

That’s because the hospitals train their staffs to shelter in place during bad weather.  Nurses, doctors, food service, housekeeping and maintenance staff know their presence is mandatory during an emergency. Both facilities have back-up power sources and fuel supply for at least three days, and likely can last much longer. 

Staff members sleep on air mattresses and cots. They are told to bring towels, toiletries and snacks from home so they are not consuming hospital resources. 

“Go ahead and prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” McBurnett said. “That should be our game plan."

Marshall Medical owns two Humvees that are stored at EMA until needed for essential staff transportation or other emergency use. 

The weakness in the system arises from the general public using the hospitals as a shelter. They stream in to the hospitals seeking electricity to charge mobile phones, to get warm or to eat. There was such a demand for food following the 2011 tornadoes the cafeteria had to be shutdown out of fear of running out of food. 

“We wind up being the safety net for the area,” Marshall South’s Jordan said. 

Bill Smith, Marshall Medical facilities management director, agreed.“Our biggest issue is getting the word out to people that we are not a shelter,” Smith said.