September 6, 2017
HHS mobilizes medical staff and supplies to support response to Hurricane Irma
Anticipating significant impacts from Hurricane Irma, currently a category 5 hurricane, as the storm approaches U.S. territories and states, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) pre-positioned medical support personnel near potentially impacted areas and alerted additional medical and public health teams to be ready to deploy into affected areas.
“Hurricane Irma is an especially powerful storm, and as the focal point for federal medical and public health support, we stand ready to assist states and U.S. territories in meeting local health needs when this hurricane hits,” said HHS’ Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dr. Robert Kadlec. “A storm of this magnitude threatens the safety and health of everyone in its path, and I urge residents to be prepared for the possible health effects that come along with it.”
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, M.D., spoke with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Roselló, U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp and Florida Governor Rick Scott on Tuesday to inform them about HHS’ efforts to prepare for the storm and assist their local responses if needed.
Federal personnel and equipment are provided at the request of state or territory officials. To ensure that HHS is positioned to fill requests immediately from affected states and territories, the department pre-positioned incident coordination staff and equipment in Puerto Rico and Georgia. These teams will oversee response activities in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Florida.
HHS also dispatched a Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) from the National Disaster Medical System to Puerto Rico, and pre-positioned two DMATs in Georgia to deploy quickly into areas impacted by Irma. DMATs consist of medical professionals and support personnel from private sector who are called into federal service during disasters to help local officials meet the overwhelming need for medical care after storms.
HHS alerted four additional DMATs to be ready to deploy if needed. Three teams of U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps personnel also stand ready to assist.
To aid state and territory officials in preparing for potential health impacts, HHS makes emPOWER data available to public health officials in Puerto Rico and Florida. This data shows the number of Medicare beneficiaries in each potentially impacted area who rely on any of 14 types of life-maintaining and assistive equipment, ranging from oxygen concentrators to electric wheelchairs, as well as data on the number of people who rely on dialysis, oxygen, and home health services. These citizens are among the most vulnerable in their communities and most likely to need life-saving assistance in prolonged power outages.
If needed, HHS can establish Federal Medical Stations (FMS) capable of providing care for to up to 250 patients at a time. HHS set up and staffed an FMS at a convention center in Houston following Hurricane Harvey. The Department also can mobilize additional medical supplies and equipment, including pharmaceuticals, as needed to aid the local medical response.
Information on health safety tips before and after the hurricane will be provided by HHS’ Office of the Assistance Secretary for Preparedness and Response and will be available at www.phe.gov/irma.
Critical updates are available at: