Hurricane season runs from June 1 until Nov. 30, so it’s important to be ready when a tropical disturbance is on the horizon.
Many of our patients have questions about what to expect from MD Anderson if a tropical storm or hurricane seems likely to hit the Houston/Galveston area. Here are 10 things you should know.
Anticipate scheduling changes. Within 48 hours of a storm’s expected landfall, MD Anderson begins shutting down certain services. This means clinic appointments, diagnostic tests and surgical procedures may be postponed, and some intensive treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, will be cancelled and rescheduled.
Expect limited access during lockdown. About 12 hours before a storm makes landfall, MD Anderson goes into “lockdown” mode. That means no one — not patients, caregivers or employees — will be able to enter or leave the facilities, so clinics will not be seeing patients. This is for everyone’s safety.
Trust that inpatients are being well-cared for. Clinics identify key personnel in advance who can stay on location until the storm passes. These include nurses, physicians, pharmacists, radiologists, technologists, food service workers and other employees who provide patient care. MD Anderson also has its own back-up generators and water supply to keep patients comfortable and critical equipment running. Fresh bottled water is provided for drinking.
Make alternate shelter arrangements for caregivers, loved ones. Because resources such as back-up power, bottled water, and food are limited, MD Anderson can’t extend shelter to patients’ caregivers or their friends and family members. We encourage patients who can travel to seek shelter outside of the affected area, if possible, and to bring all of their medications with them.
Know that the Rotary House may be evacuated. Because the Rotary House is a separate building not connected to emergency water and power supplies, guests at this facility may be asked to evacuate. MD Anderson works closely with hotels in neighboring cities to make arrangements for affected patients and their families. Patients who are too sick to travel may be admitted to the hospital, but treating physicians will decide this on a case-by-case basis.
Make medical records portable. If patients require medical assistance from another care provider while MD Anderson is closed, it’s helpful to provide details about their illness, medications and treatment. That’s why we encourage all of our patients to register at myMDAnderson. Our medical records are electronic, so patients can access them from anywhere in the world, provided they have an internet connection.
Develop a plan with your care center. Reach out to your care team in advance to find out how specific treatments or appointments might be affected, and how you can get back on track once the storm has passed.
Stay alert for updates. We keep local media well-informed of our status, so watch the news or listen to the radio to find out how weather is affecting MD Anderson. You can also check our Emergency Alert Information, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.
Remain calm if MD Anderson needs to evacuate. We pay a great deal of attention to our supporting infrastructure so that this doesn’t happen. But in the unlikely event that MD Anderson has to evacuate, we will work with the Texas Medical Center and Harris County emergency teams to move our patients and staff to another location.
Expect us to reopen when it’s safe. Once the immediate danger has passed, MD Anderson takes steps to begin serving patients again right away. After high water recedes and the Texas Medical Center’s flood gates are reopened, MD Anderson services resume in stages.