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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

2011 Hurricane Irene Response in Rhode Island

HPP-Supported Coalition Building, Evacuation Planning and Interoperable Communications Help Improve Resilience in RI

The power outages and nursing home evacuations Hurricane Irene caused in Rhode Island in August 2011 posed a series of challenges to the healthcare systems in that area.  But thanks in part to the coalition building, evacuation planning, and interoperable communications that were put in place with the help of the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) before the storm struck, New Hampshire was more resilient in the face of the disaster.
 
Before the storm, New Hampshire healthcare facilities partnered with state and municipal agencies to develop the planning and communications initiatives that they relied on during an emergency.  They used the Inclement Weather Work Plan, which clarifies expectations, roles and responsibilities for severe weather events in Rhode Island.  The Plan was been established in 2010 and had already worked well in previous severe weather events.
 
Throughout any disaster, responders rely on up-to-the-minute communications to let them know how to best help people.  HPP funding supported the interoperable communications that continued to work during and after the storm.  These allowed hospitals, dispatch centers, health centers and nursing homes trade organizations to continue to provide vital information.
During the response, three nursing homes and one low-income elderly housing complex were evacuated.  Thanks to the HPP-sponsored plans that were in place before the event and their execution by the Ambulance Strike Team during the emergency, all of the patients were safely cared for.
 
Rhode Island also faced power outages that lasted for up to seven days in some parts of the state.  Although generators worked well in the first hours after the storm, they later failed.  At that point, it looked like they may need to evacuate another 9 nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  But with careful prioritization from the National Grid, movement of generators from state and local emergency management agencies, and help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the nursing homes did not need to be evacuated. 

  • This page last reviewed: May 16, 2012