We, amongst everyone else in the nation, have been keeping a close eye on the impact of the wildfires ripping through the Smoky Mountains.  The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency have been putting their disaster preparedness plans in action and working tirelessly to contain the disaster, but a wildfire of this magnitude has everyone on edge, hoping for no casualties and feeling heartbroken over the damage that has already been caused. 

Unfortunately, this disaster has claimed the lives of 7 people thus far, and has caused injury to nearly four dozen people according to media reports

With the potential of injury numbers climbing as the fire continues to burn, nearby healthcare facilities need to ensure their healing environment remains safe and that patient care is not interrupted by having disaster preparedness plans in place.  Scott Cormier, Medxcel FM’s Vice President of Emergency Management, Environment of Care & Safety provides tips below to healthcare facilities if they are ever faced with a wildfire disaster:

Along with spreading fire, wildfires can bring smoke and soot to a medical facility, clogging air filters and creating a dangerous environment for patients.  Planning for a wildfire is more than just watching a map and making sure it does not spread into your area.  Consider the following:

  • Do you have staff that live in an affected area?  They may want to consider evacuating early to avoid having to move last minute.
  • Road closure could affect staff making it to your facility, as well as patients, supplies, and emergency crews.  Map out alternative routes, or consider alternative transportation.
  • Have extra air filters on hand, as well as masks/respirators.
  • Wildfires spread quickly, but evacuations take time.  Make sure you are using the most up to date information on the spread of the fire, and if necessary, evacuate with enough time in case any delays occur.
  • Do you have enough supplies for burn victims?  While you may typically transfer burn patients to specialty centers, that may not be available to you due to surge or transportation issues.  Make sure you have enough supplies as well as updating training for your clinical staff on the care of burn patients.  Telemedicine consults with burn specialists can be helpful for more critical patients that cannot be transferred immediately.
  • Plan for remediation before the fires are over.  Having teams on-site will expedite the process.
Our thoughts and prayers remain with all of the firefighters, first responders and other emergency crews as they continue to work tirelessly to contain this disaster.