Nineteen years ago Wednesday, Hurricane Andrew left Homestead Hospital without water, without power, and closed for a week. Administrators say that should never happen again: their four-year-old facility off the Florida Turnpike is constructed to withstand even a Category 5 storm.
“We’re hyper vigilant because of Hurricane Andrew,” said CEO William Duquette.
Duquette was the hospital's laboratory manager when Homestead became ground zero for Andrew.
“I remember running buckets of water up to the roof to pour into the generator so we could run it enough to get people, our patients, in the elevators downstairs so we could evacuate them.”
In the event patients ever need to be evacuated from the new hospital, staff members have been trained to use Med Sleds, hard plaster carriers with security belts that are designed to help glide patients down a stairwell.
During Andrew, hospital workers used bed sheets.
“The patients are dependent upon us for their safety," says staffer Ellen Sordo. "So we implemented this now that we have five stories...if we did have to evacuate, we’d have to do it quickly."
When a hurricane threatens, the hospital brings in a week’s supply of canned and dry foods and liquid meal replacements.
“We have 600-1,000 gallons of water for any event,” says Sordo. They also order additional medication and health supplies.
Power should no longer be an issue, either. The new hospital facility was built nine feet above ground level, with two giant generators stored indoors and elevated another three feet for storm surge protection. Administrators say there's enough fuel underground to power the hospital for seven days.
Still another step has been taken since Andrew left the hospital crippled. During a hurricane, the area normally used for recovery from outpatient procedures will be used to manage special needs patients from the community who are dependent on medical equipment and electricity to survive. To register for that service call 311 in Miami-Dade.