Tuesday, 24 January 2012: 4:45 PM
Ambulance 701: Enroute and Approaching with the National Weather Service
Room 333 (New Orleans Convention Center )
Imagine getting into your ambulance and knowing with three or four days' warning that particular roadways in your first due will flood and exactly which route to the patient or hospital is optimum. Can it be possible to improve response time and ETA to medical facility in advance of a flood, a hurricane, fire weather or a winter storm so any local EMS department can re-route, improve decision support/preparedness prior to weather impact but also add weather information to the CAD with geographic coordinates, the 911 dispatch run sheets, ePCR and/or smart phones? NWS is joining forces with EMS personnel to help make better transport decisions enroute to the scene and hospital. For example, when the newest NWS hurricane graphics product are released, information can be best utilized onboard the ambulance. The graphical representation of an area along the coast shows which area will get storm surge, and this year the lead-time has been extended to 48 hours prior to hurricane landfall with more focus on storm surge to prevent confusion with the Saffir Simpson wind scale. If a medical facility is located along the coast, you can look at this information several days in advance, and use the colors ranging from yellow up to red to begin making your patient transport decision. Other applications include improving patient transport decision for winds, tornadoes and inland flooding produced by hurricanes. These are few of many products provided by the National Weather Service (NWS) through its local offices and the services of its Warning Coordination Meteorologists. Hospitals must now have a plan for a mandatory evacuation of a hospital, and hospitals recognize that they need to have this information as soon as possible. If you're going to transport patients outside your facility, you need to know that fact two to three days beforehand, particularly if you need to get private ambulances from a distant facility. You can't line up 60 ambulances with just two hours' notice. Usually you need at least a day or two. You need accurate information and as much lead time as possible so you can make decisions about whether you need to stop performing elective surgeries and try to minimize the number of patients so you're left with just the people who are least able to travel, or do you need to evacuate them as well. That depends on the information that's provided beforehand. We hope to help hospitals/EMS realize the resources that are available to them in their community. It's not to circumvent the community's Emergency Manager; it's to let them know that there are other resources that can help them in decision-making, particularly with those events that require either potential evacuation of the hospital or transporting patients. The emphasis for weather is on information from a Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the local level, as well as working with the Emergency Manager to make those decisions and to recognize that there is a lot more information that can be used at the local level.