Hanahan-based MedTrust Medical Transport, a premier provider of ambulance services in the Lowcountry and Grand Strand, successfully completed a hurricane evacuation exercise on Friday, June 15 and Saturday, June 16, 2018. The exercise, named Hurricane Palmetto, provided a real-time test of the evacuation response plans of the facilities throughout the Lowcountry and the Grand Strand.
Hurricane Palmetto simulated a Category 3 Storm striking the South Carolina coast just south of Charleston County and moving north-north east across the coastline. It featured approximately 350 people from 19 organizations, including hospitals, emergency departments and retirement communities, and was the first such exercise to span multiple facilities from Charleston to Myrtle Beach.
The participants conducted 160 separate transports over the two days. At its peak, 51 vehicles were deployed, transporting 102 patients at one time.
“Thanks to Hurricane Palmetto, we gained valuable knowledge and insight into executing our communication and evacuation plans of these facilities,” said Josh Watts, CEO of MedTrust Medical Transport. “With the improvements we will implement following our review of the exercise, patients and their families can be even more confident we can safely and efficiently move them during a major event.”
Hurricane Palmetto tested the process of communication of needs for facilities and patient information to be shared during a disaster, including communication and patient tracking programs for facilities to be able to have real time access to see where their patients are.
It also validated evacuation response plans for local facilities and ensure their communication and evacuation plans are up to date and appropriate for the needed response to a call to facilitate evacuation.
Finally, it tried to ensure an efficient evacuation of facilities in a safe and timely manner, with team movements coordinated and communicated for proper tracking.
The facilities involved initiated their transport efforts approximately 24 to 48 hours in advance of the storm reaching land, and in response to the equivalent of a state-issued medical facility mandatory evacuation for coastal carolina.
Because of the damaging winds and heavy rainfall and resulting wide-spread area flooding this storm would cause, all non-hospital locations in the exercise did not have waivers to shelter in place and had to evacuate. Additionally, the area’s freestanding emergency departments (FSED) closed, requiring movement of multiple patients.
The exercise required facilities to coordinate evacuations, transportation of needed equipment and staff to assist with patients. Operating under a notice of mandatory evacuation by state officials, facilities needed to take actions to ensure a complete, accurate evacuation while maintaining the ability to accordingly track and care for their patients.
Patients from facilities needed to be transported by different modes to other medical facilities in the area, region, state and adjoining states. Resource management, clear facility needs and the ability to fulfill those needs for evacuation were required to be completed 24 hours prior to landfall, at which time the assets will become available to assist the State DHEC EMS office with Urgent and Emergent request for response.
In addition to serving as the organizer of the exercise, MedTrust oversaw the EMS providers, which also includes Shoreline Ambulance, Thorne Ambulance, and American Trans Med.
Helicopters provided by Air Methods, a leader in the air medical environment with nearly 40 years of experience in emergency air transport, simulated three critical patient transfers during the exercise.
Among the volunteers serving as actors in the role of patients were girl scouts and boy scouts from coastal South Carolina.