After Hurricane Harvey: Disaster Preparedness for Treatment Centers
Last week Beach House Center for Recovery was invited to share the nuts and bolts of effective disaster preparedness at a community training for treatment providers, sober homes and other recovery advocates and professionals from Palm Beach County and greater South Florida. The event could not have come at a more critical moment for our local community, as it braces itself for potentially the worst storm in recent history (Irma, followed closely by Jose).
More than 40 people attended the event on Tuesday, August 29, which was sponsored by the Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition and Recovery Awareness Partnership, and featured a small cohort of speakers from Palm Beach County’s Division of Emergency Management, the American Red Cross, the Palm Beach County School Police and Palm Beach County Sheriff Department.
Our very own David Beckerman (Treatment Liaison Coordinator) was one of the speakers. He shared the following tips for treatment providers and sober homes regarding the basics of any good disaster preparedness plan:
- Make the safety of your clients your #1 priority. If they are able to go home, make sure they have transportation arrangements in place for there and back. If they are not able to go home, make sure they are out of harm’s way and have reliable transportation to get there. This may mean having a contract ready with a bus company/hotel for proper accommodations for evacuation, which is our standard protocol at Beach House.
- Halt the admission of new clients four to five days before the hurricane is expected to hit.
- Similarly, planned discharges need to be put on hold, or completed a little early to avoid the storm’s path.
- Your plan should have a protocol in place for all of the things that could go wrong.
- Have an evacuation plan in place, and follow it if you are ordered to evacuate. If a facility has the ability (like Beach House), proper evacuation is ideal—unless your center is in a hurricane-safe zone and has plenty of food, water, a back-up generator and a secure shelter capacity.
- If you are a large treatment provider, ensure that all of your departments stay in close communication with one another.
- Keep a generous back-up supply of medications on hand for clients receiving medically assisted treatments like naltrexone or buprenorphine—and make sure prescriptions are filled.
- Have Narcan readily available on site, in case clients experience a stress-induced, relapse overdose and first responders are not able to get there. (During last year’s hurricane season, four people reportedly overdosed at a shelter in Del Rey, which thankfully had access to the life-saving drug.)
- Make sure you’ve got plenty of petty cash on hand, just in case ATMs stop working. You may need it for food and other supplies.
- Make sure your facility is as secure and disaster-ready as possible: back up online client records; lock down interior rooms; double check hurricane screens are in place and that generators and back-up generators are in good working condition; ensure plenty of water and non-perishable food are on hand.
- Double up your staff ratio, if at all possible, so that if you do end up at a hotel or shelter, you can provide better client supervision and enforce the same drug-free policies.