Hospitals achieve StormReady designations from the National Weather Service

After a major weather event, a hospital is where local residents head to get injuries treated. That’s as it should be, but two HCA hospitals are working to be the place where the community goes before the weather turns serious as well.

TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center and TriStar Summit Medical Center are recognized as StormReady communities by the National Weather Service (NWS). This means that each facility has met rigorous standards for emergency first responder, patient, visitor and staff preparedness in the event of a natural disaster or serious weather event, according to the NWS, which began the StormReady program in 1999. Its goal is to make sure that a community has everything it needs in place for severe weather in terms of advanced planning, education and awareness. Officials at the hospitals knew of the program, and thought it would be an excellent way not only for the facilities to beef up their own preparedness efforts, but also to offer valuable services to the community.

Jason Erlewine

“We get tornadoes here, and they often hit in the evening or at night when you can’t see them coming,” says Lee Trevor, Disaster Preparedness Coordinator at TriStar Summit. “Because of the darkness, we end up with more fatalities. So when a meteorologist from the NWS Nashville, Tennessee office came to us and spoke with our regional disaster committee, we got to thinking about what we could do to enhance our storm readiness.”

“When we began looking at the procedures we’d need to enhance or implement to become a StormReady hospital, we saw that we already had a lot of them in some form,” adds Jason Erlewine, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator at TriStar Hendersonville. “We set to work on solidifying our processes with the national curriculum, which included some additional training and signage, but for the most part we were able to build on things already in place.”

Jason Wright, a Senior Meteorologist with the NWS office in Nashville, says that the hospitals went well above and beyond the basic requirements as they worked toward the StormReady designation, which will be reviewed and renewed every three years.

Lee Trevor

“They will be reviewed in three years, and then go through the entire recognition application process three years after that, to ensure these hospitals are meeting the program’s basic standards,” says Wright. “These two hospitals have shown that they can properly handle the impact of a significant weather event to hospital operations, and even to their buildings. There’s no way to ensure that anyone or anything can be storm-proof, but these hospitals have gone out of their way to ensure that they have significant weather preparedness plans in place, including receiving safety and spotter training for their staff.”

Preparation well worth the effort
The process of certification included holding storm-spotter classes and tours from the NWS, Tennessee Emergency Management Authority and others to see emergency operations centers, test radios and more. But it was worth it, say Trevor and Erlewine.

“There’s a lot of criteria, but we always want to be the place where the community can come whether there’s an actual disaster or if they need to prepare for one,” Trevor says. “When we’ve had tornadoes come through, people get off the interstate and come to us anyway. We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can do to house people and keep them safe.”

“We are strongly committed to being that community resource,” adds Erlewine. “Lee and I are trained storm spotters, but we’re also ham radio operators. We like to be able to communicate any way we can, especially if there’s bad weather or something else going on.”

That communication can sometimes lead to some goodnatured rivalry between the two, he admits.

“Lee likes to tell everybody that his hospital was the first StormReady-recognized facility in the county, so I add that mine was the first one in the state,” Erlewine says.