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Keeping Clients Safe During Hurricane Matthew

As a storm brewed, an emergency plan kicked into action

“We’ve had so many misses in the past because of our location on an inlet, nobody thought it was coming anywhere near us,” recalls Becky Morosky, RN, Director of Nursing at BrightStar Care in St. Simons Island, Georgia, about Hurricane Matthew, which made landfall in South Carolina during the first week of October 2016.

But the Category 1 hurricane was, in fact, headed their way, and Morosky had 106 clients to get to safety. “When they said it was going to come close, I pulled out my emergency manual, and I said, ‘This is how we’re going to handle it,’” says Morosky.

“We all worked together and got it done.”

Staff verified that everyone had emergency supplies, such as extra water and oxygen tanks, if needed, and, if the governor were to order an evacuation, that they had somewhere to go.

Out of precaution, a majority of clients left the area with family, and Morosky’s team documented where they were headed. St. Simons Island BrightStar Care franchise owners Ken and Kelly Trowbridge also helped find hotel rooms for several clients. Schedules and plans were arranged for infusion and nursing services to continue in the days ahead.

“When (meteorologists) determined it was going to be a hit, when it was coming closer, we started evacuating,” Morosky says. Twelve clients needed assistance.

GOOD CONNECTION

“Before I could even get into panic mode and try to figure out what to do, (staff at) BrightStar had already started looking into where they could take my mom,” says Michele, whose mother requires around-the-clock nursing care.

A member of the BrightStar Care nursing staff had a connection to a personal-care home three hours away, and it had five empty beds. Morosky says, “I coordinated with (the owner), we rented a van, and we put five of our clients and two caregivers there.”

Michele’s mom was one of those clients, and Lashasta was one of the BrightStar Care caregivers who accompanied her.

Several of the elderly patients had been through this before, and they weren’t panicked, but they knew they couldn’t stay home without power or water. “They were ready to get out of there, and I was, too,” Lashasta says.

BEST LAID PLANS

A home care agency must put in place Emergency Management policies and procedures to earn Joint Commission accreditation. Additionally, an accredited agency must create and maintain an emergency plan for each of its clients. BrightStar Care requires each of its local agencies to pursue and earn Joint Commission accreditation, so Morosky and her team were ready to execute their plan and keep their clients safe.

At the start of care, BrightStar Care works with families to determine whether each client will rely on their family or require outside assistance. Plans can change, though, and, as Hurricane Matthew headed toward the Atlantic coast, Morosky set up a phone tree to check in with each client.

JOB WELL DONE

Hurricane Matthew battered the Georgia coastline with heavy rainfall and destructive winds. A week later, when residents returned, they found their yards strewn with debris. “It was a pretty good mess when we got back here,” recalls Lashasta.

 

Caregivers continued to check on clients as they returned home: making sure power had been restored, helping clean rotten food out of refrigerators, and assisting with tree removal. It took about two weeks for life to return to normal.

In mid-October, the residents of St. Simons Island gathered in a local park to praise police and other first responders who had stayed on the island during the storm. Michele also praises the efforts of BrightStar Care staff, who averted a potential crisis with a solid plan of action.

“Before I could even be worried about it, they were already thinking about it,” she says.

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