MUSC The Catalyst
                        arial view


MUSC Medical Links Charleston Links Archives Catalyst Advertisers Seminars and Events Research Studies Public
                    Relations Research Grants Catalyst PDF File MUSC home page Community Happenings Campus News Applause

MUSC Medical Links Charleston Links Archives Catalyst Advertisers Seminars and Events Research Studies Public
                          Relations Research Grants MUSC home
                          page Community Happenings Campus News Applause


MUSC prepares for any size storm

Before most notice the tiny white swirl developing in the eastern Atlantic, MUSC’s Risk Management team’s eyes are focused as they anticipate the worst that could happen.
“We start tracking storms at birth,” said Jennifer Taylor, University Risk Management business manager and member of the disaster readiness response team. “For us, it becomes a 24-7 job to track a storm’s path and get ready for anything that can come our way.”
University Risk Management's Donna Cool, right, and Juli Dorn show this year's projections for hurricanes to a participant during Hurricane Awareness Day, May 27. University Risk Management also had tracking charts available. The National Weather Service, Rob Fowler from TV Channel 2, and the American Red Cross were on hand to answer questions pretaining to emergency preparedness and the 2009 hurricane season.

While most reserve their response to high-category hurricanes, living at sea level has taught MUSC’s disaster preparedness units to respect even tropical storms.
“No matter the category level, we must be storm ready,” said Taylor. “Because flooding and storm surge always are the big issues, a tropical storm can cause more problems for us than a category-level hurricane, especially if it hits at high tide.”
As anyone who’s ever driven the Crosstown after a heavy rain can attest, flooding is a way of life along the peninsula, which easily could become disastrous with the right mix of meteorological conditions.
“We assume an all-hazards approach to risk management,” Taylor said. “Our due diligence is the same and our planning takes into account the safety of our staff, students and patients; and the security and integrity of our facilities, IT infrastructure, and all of the functions necessary to the continuity of operations and complete recovery.”
During a recent meeting at Risk Management, plans and resources were shared on how different university functions will weather a storm.   Considerations about students, postdocs and their families; research, lab functions and IT services help demonstrate the extraordinary alertness level for a coastal institution.
A lot of experience and understanding about human response, and the implications of false security, have helped shape a set of steps and measures that the campus community can expect to take in the event of an oncoming hurricane. Labs must be secured, windows covered to protect interiors and supplies must be on hand or accessible.
Research Administration has Disaster Preparedness-Research Continuity Guidelines on MUSC’s research support services portal that provides specifics on how to prepare the laboratory for pre- and post-disaster management (see, according to Loretta Lynch-Reichert, operations manager for Research Administration. On this Web site, an announcement alert system is located at the top of the page to provide updates to the research community from the associate provost for Research.
Accommodating people's needs and assuring their safety during a disaster also is critical.
“Students and postdocs must develop an action plan now and make their own arrangements for evacuating the area,” said Robin Hardin, Student Programs director. “This includes planning for their families.”
The Basic Sciences Building is the staging area for evacuation of students where buses would be used to transport them to a designated shelter. It is important to know what can and cannot be taken to shelters. Check whether pets can be accommodated at the shelters before bringing them. (Visit

Communication is critical
The number one issue during any type of emergency is clear and reliable communication.
A communication system, designed by Sujit Kar of Business Development and Marketing in cooperation with Risk Management, enables instant notification to cell phones, PDAs, and e-mail to everyone who has signed up (
Managed and updated by Risk Management, the university’s homepage will provide an emergency alert status updates (see For updates call 792-MUSC.

Beyond telephones
As participants in the ultra-high tech world, MUSC ensures information is advanced and shared to decision makers and those who could be affected.
Walkie-talkies, cell phones, landlines, satellite phones and access to a unique ham radio network have helped make MUSC’s clinical services a model for the nation.
The S.C. Healthcare Emergency Amateur Radio Team (S.C. Heart), of which Clinical Services Disaster Preparedness coordinator Brian Fletcher, R.N., is a member, assures continuity of communication via satellite and analog waves when all other services have failed. (See
“S.C. Heart brings a technical skill-set that is beyond belief,” said Fletcher. “They will bring in a D-Sat (disaster satellite) trailer and shoot microwaves to Trident Hospital and our other partners when all other systems fail.”
The S.C. Heart mobile satellite communications system recently was demonstrated to emergency operations teams in Ohio and other states who also are seeking a showing, Fletcher said.
Otherwise, the hospital will rely on existing systems that assure communication between units, officials and regional emergency officials, said Al Nesmith, MUHA Safety & Security director.
“If our phones fail, we have other means of communication,” Nesmith said. “We have system failure telephones and simon paging system that allow the medical center personnel to communicate. We have walkie-talkies that are available for distribution to medical center clinical and support areas. If all else fails, we would rely on face-to-face couriers. Overall, we want respond in a confident manner to ensure that services are sustained and/or modified minimally.”

People management
Hurricane warnings always create questions about leave policies. These questions can be addressed in policies that differ between the university and hospital.
The Human Resource Management Supplemental Leave Policy (policy #21), Hazardous Weather and the MUSC Severe Weather Plan, can be found at
Leave and emergency operations policies and plans for the medical center can be found
Generally, all critical personnel are expected to report to work as outlined in department emergency plans. Most departments have a team schedule for covering all shifts during an emergency.
MUSC will call for an evacuation of personnel only after the governor declares a disaster and orders an evacuation in affected areas. Leave policy may depend on a department or supervisor’s discretion, but generally are taken from a staff member’s personal leave time to cover any absence during this time.
Whether patients are evacuated or shifted to different areas or facilities depends on a number of factors.
“Any response to a storm is a very dynamic situation,” Nesmith said. “Nothing is absolute or set in stone. We have a number of avenues we are prepared to take, but many of those actions are guided by conditions such as flooding, facility exposure to high winds, access and transportation.”
Fortunately, MUSC’s buildings were designed to provide for a water-safe, elevated pathway by way of the second floor that connects most of the clinical areas.  And, if necessary, critical and fragile patients can be transported to any number of hospitals away from the coast due to memoranda of understanding.
For information on MUSC’s weather emergency plan, go to This plan will be updated in June pursuant to receipt of South Carolina governor’s 2009 South Carolina Hurricane Plan.

University preparedness steps

As hurricane season approaches, everyone must be  informed about the policies and procedures regarding severe weather conditions.

Students and postdocs

  • Register for MUSC ALERT to receive notifications of severe weather and other emergencies that are affecting the campus at
  • All students are encouraged to plan and make their own hurricane evacuation arrangements before an evacuation is issued.Those who are unable to evacuate themselves should notify their colleges’ deans’ offices/postdoc office now so that adequate transportation to a local Red Cross shelter can be planned.  Students and post docs’ family members will be included in transportation to a local shelter, but the colleges’/post docs’ liaisons should be aware of those needing assistance.

Laboratory and research personnel

  • Organize research information, such as labeling important materials and establishing an emergency rack as first priority to be carried out in the event of an alert.
  • Unplug equipment, excluding telephone and data network cables, and move it away from the windows and off the floor. After this, cover equipment with plastic sheeting to prevent water damage.
  • Have an external hard drive with copied files from your computer to take with you in case of an evacuation.
  • Make sure to have a copy of the lab inventory list and a map of the lab when you leave campus.

For information visit  Laboratory and research personnel may visit

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.