Area hospitals are ready to help quake victims

Area hospitals and trained disaster teams are standing by in case they are called on to aid Haitian earthquake victims.

 

Patients could be flown in to local hospitals or disaster teams could be deployed to Haiti.

Instructions would come from the state or federal level.

"Everything is in place and standing by to help if it's requested," said Pam Tucker, Columbia County's Emergency Management Agency director.

Evacuating patients to Augusta requires activation of the National Disaster Medical System, a federal process that coordinates a national network of medical care in case of disasters such as earthquakes.

As of Wednesday, the Georgia Department of Community Health, which would take the lead if the system is activated, had not received a request from the federal government, according to a statement from the organization.

Staff at Doctors Hospital were put on notice Monday by Brad Thompson, the hospital's director of safety and security, in case the national system is activated, spokeswoman Olena Scarboro said.

Thompson wrote in an e-mail to staff that the chance the plan would be put in place "is very small."

A likelier possibility is that a disaster team based in Augusta would relieve another U.S. team in February, said Jane Williams, the team commander for the Georgia 4 Disaster Medical Assistance Team.

"We'll probably be relieving other teams that are over there because it sounds like a pretty long-term thing," she said. "It would be difficult to prepare for this, I would think. I don't think in your wildest dreams you can imagine what kind of situation you're going in to."

The team has already submitted its roster of 35 personnel, though not all would be eligible because a valid passport would be needed to travel to Haiti, Williams said.

Georgia emergency officials also said they are on standby in case Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport becomes a portal to help American citizens return from Haiti, said Lisa Janak, a Georgia Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman.

Florida, New Jersey and Maryland are helping more than 45,000 U.S. citizens in Haiti return home, said Buzz Weiss, a GEMA spokesman.

Reach Erin Zureick at (706) 823-3217 or erin.zureick@augustachronicle.com.

ESi tracks missing people

A local company is helping the Haitian Embassy in Washington track people who are missing in the earthquake's aftermath.

Volunteers are being trained in how to use WebEOC, the company's emergency management software, said John O'Dell, the chief technology officer at ESi.

"Like with any disaster, the process (of tracking the missing) could go on for months," he said.

WebEOC will help the Haitian Embassy set up registration boards and manage volunteers and donations.

ESi's software has been used by crisis response teams worldwide during natural disasters.

-- Bianca Cain, staff writer