February 20, 2017
With recent power outages and all-around heavy winter weather, the Jan. 26 meeting of EPHC Board of Directors put a focus on disaster preparedness and ways to serve the community.
DeeDee Clark, Nursing Administration Coordinator at EPHC, spoke about the recent weather event. “When I started at EPHC in September 2016, immediately noticed the disaster plan and saw a need to breathe fresh life into it. This was extremely helpful when heavy storms hit Portola in early January, and having a good pre-disaster meeting got everyone on the same page, between the staff at EPHC and the staff at the City.”
The Education Center on the main EPHC campus in Portola is the official City of Portola warming center in times of natural disaster, and is equipped with a generator to provide a warm, safe space with access to electricity. “There are many in our local community that rely on electricity to keep vital medical equipment, such as 02 concentrators, running. When the power and the heat go out, we are prepared to start up the generator and open the doors to the public,” Clark continued.
“During this particular weather event, the power went out on Tues., Jan. 10 and returned sometime in the wee hours of the morning on Jan. 12. Fortunately, we were prepared, and had topped off all of our tanks of fuel for the generators- this was important, so that we didn’t have to worry about running out and trying to figure out how to access more fuel in a timely manner.”
EPHC opened the doors of the warming center, providing electricity, heat, cots, blankets, and even television access to all that needed it. “We also provided meals to some individuals,” Clark commented. “The hospital kitchen staff really jumped in and helped get meals to the warming center.”
“There was initially a bit of confusion as to who should staff the center, however EPHC resolved the issue and utilized EMT staff to stay on site at the warming center. We are not providing medical care in the center, but we felt that the EMT’s have the medical training needed to react appropriately if there were to be a medical emergency,” Clark went on.
“We are working closely with City Manager Robert Meacher on the center, and I really appreciate how easy it is to reach him and work with him. Open communication is essential in times of natural disaster.”
Communication was an issue during the storm, however, as cellular phone service, landlines, and even radio contact went down between Jan. 10-12. “We have satellite phones, provided by Plumas Public Health and Sierra Public Health, and we have tested them to ensure that we will always have a mode of communication- they work! This was especially important, as EPHC staff ensured that phone calls were placed to patients that are considered ‘high priority’ during the storm to check on patient personal safety. Our goal is to keep the community secure and safe.”
The power outage also threatened approximately $28,000 of vaccines from Graeagle and Loyalton, but with good planning, staff was able to transport all of the vaccines to the Portola clinic in a timely fashion, where a generator kept the vaccines temperature-stable.
“I have to say, everything went very smoothly,” Clark said. “We got so much support from Tom Hayes, the CEO here at EPHC. He makes it really easy for us to provide the community with resources. Linda Satchwell was also a huge resource, as she handled public relations during the event.
“Staff worked together to provide a safe and secure place for those truly in need, and for things to run so smoothly, I have to emphasize that pre-planning is absolutely vital.”
The Education Center at EPHC will continue to be used as a warming center as the need arises, and Clark promised, “The moment the power goes out, we are preparing the center and kicking up the generator and the heat.” For more information regarding the EPHC Campus City Warming Center, contact Linda Satchwell at 832-6597.