With hurricane season in full swing, staying prepared for a potential natural disaster is as important as ever.
Chris Starbuck, the emergency response coordinator for Eastern Health Care Preparedness Coalition (EHCPC), said having a plan in place with family and friends can make all the difference in an emergency situation.
“One key point that we want to get across is be prepared. Starting a hurricane kit is the first step in doing so,” Starbuck said. “Make sure that you have all your important documents gathered if you have to evacuate.”
He also points out the importance of planning for more than a day or two: “What if you have to shelter in place for three to seven days because there’s so much flooding?” Starbuck said.
Ready.gov is a federal government website with helpful information about how to properly prepare for a hurricane. Creating a plan that meets the specific needs of your household and building an emergency kit that contains at least 72 hours’ worth of supplies can help you stay adequately prepared for a natural disaster like a hurricane.
One more item for your hurricane prep checklist – help others plan, too.
“Work with your neighbors, your community and your churches,” Starbuck said. “If we can prepare them then we can make a more resilient community overall.”
What is EHCPC?
From trucks that double as mobile hospitals to coordinating evacuations or the deployment of medical supplies, EHCPC remains on standby for when emergencies strike or networks go down. It is one of eight such coalitions across the state and is responsible for the largest geographic region statewide, covering one-third of North Carolina.
“We also provide support to Vidant Health and the regional health care facilities,” said Matt McMahon, a disaster and communication specialist. “If a hospital loses communication, whether it be phone, radio or internet, we can come in and support.”
While the team is proudly Vidant-based, their work is ultimately about being there for eastern North Carolina no matter who needs support or how. The team’s wide range of combined experience, expertise and equipment places them in the role of collaborative lynchpin, pulling resources and teams together to respond in a wide range of disaster scenarios or medical emergencies. This includes working behind the scenes to prepare until the event happens and managing training and the logistics needed for any level of response.
“Relationships and collaboration are key for our deployments to be successful,” said Starbuck. “When activated, we specialize in integrating with the services and teams already in place to help with the response in whatever way is needed.”
Ready to respond
Two vehicles critical to the team’s operation are the medical emergency bus and a field communication support truck.
The medical emergency bus can be used to transport many patients in need of assistance at the same time. Twenty stretcher-bound patients can be supported in the ambulance bus at once, and with stretchers removed, there are seats for 25 patients with enough room for five crew members to attend to the patients during the transport.
The field communication support truck provides phone, radio and internet to the mobile emergency bus. Additionally, the truck has filled in during communication outages throughout the Vidant system. Following Hurricane Florence in 2018, Vidant Duplin Hospital was without internet and phone service. The team and the truck were quickly deployed to the area and kept communication running in a time of need.
“We have all the needed tools on here to communicate back regionally, and also with the state Emergency Operation Center,” McMahon said. “Additionally, we can communicate back to Vidant no matter where we are in the eastern part of the state.”
Hurricanes can form quickly. Take the time now, before a hurricane impacts our region, to educate yourself on how to prepare and respond. Below are helpful links for federal and state websites: