When disaster strikes, the basic instinct is to run for cover, but some people are prepared to rush to the danger zone to provide life-saving care for the injured.  The month of September is National Preparedness Month, however, as preparedness is a year-round process, OCHRegionalMedicalCenter stands ready to respond to emergencies and disasters at all times.  

            According to OCH EMT Paramedic Shedrick Hogan, the key to responding to a disaster situation is having a plan in place so that care can be administered quickly and efficiently.  “We keep the ambulances ready to go and stocked with enough supplies to provide basic care to patients.  When disaster strikes, our job is to triage patients and transport the most severely injured as quickly as possible to the hospital,” explained Hogan.

Once a patient arrives at the MedicalCenter, the OCH Disaster Response Team steps into action to care for the injured.  This team of highly-skilled healthcare providers that is made up of registered nurses, respiratory therapists and physicians has received rigorous training to prepare for the worst-case scenario. 

According to OCH’s Disaster Preparedness Officer and Director of Respiratory Therapy, Wes Andrews, RRT, CHEP, some of the biggest threats to the Starkville community include tornados and low level flooding.  Not only is the relief team at OCH prepared to handle natural disasters but also chemical threats such as anthrax.

            “In addition to having a disaster response team, OCH offers FEMA certified training for all employees so they will be able to address the hazards that occur in the event of an emergency or disaster,” Andrews said. “We also participate in exercises with other first responders in the area to improve the functionality of the relief plan.”

            In fact, OCH conducted a routine disaster safety drill in January, in which local and state emergency responders participated. This drill was done in order to evaluate and improve communication, triage and transfer of patients, incident command system set-up and interaction with outside agencies during a disaster situation.

            “We have advanced technology, a well-trained staff and a protocol to follow to ensure the safety and well-being of our patients, visitors and employees.  The OCH Disaster Response Team is committed to taking a proactive approach so that we’re prepared for any situation in OktibbehaCounty and the surrounding areas,” said Andrews. 

            Andrews said residents should follow FEMA recommendations and have a disaster plan in place and be prepared to go at least three days without electricity, water services, access to the grocery store, or local services.  He also said every family should have an emergency kit stocked with non-perishable food, batteries, first-aid supplies, water, a flashlight and anything else that you or your family would need for at least three days.

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