October 13, 2022
As Hurricane Ian was getting ready to make landfall in Florida and devastate cities and communities, Angela "Angie" Giegerich, MSN, FNP-C, TCRN, Director of Trauma and Burn Services at Research Medical Center, was selected as part of HCA Healthcare's Enterprise Preparedness & Emergency Operations (EPEO) Incident Support Team (IST). With only 36 hours, notice she and her team of six IST members arrived in Tampa, Fla. to assist in preparation for Hurricane Ian.
"The response of HCA during a crisis like this is unparalleled," Angie said. "From toilet paper and food, to plywood and tarps, to mobile generators – HCA’s mission was to support their employees who had been affected in any way. I was incredibly humbled by the commitment of staff from every department to be there for one another."
The IST is a team of individuals from various HCA departments across the country who are specially trained to respond to support HCA facilities and operations during both natural and man-made events. While on location, however, Angie noticed local employees who were impacted by the hurricane also stepping up to help when and wherever they were needed.
"So many who had lost homes or had damaged property were still present, looking for ways to help and support their fellow employees and patients."
Prior to the hurricane making landfall, the IST set up mobile communications with Incident Command at HCA's corporate headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., identified landing zones in parking lots of hospitals without helipads, and began evacuating patients from hospitals identified as being in a high-risk area. This team had fully evacuated two hospitals and supported the facilities that had accepted a large number of these transferred patients before Ian hit.
As the hurricane made landfall, IST remained on standby until it was deemed safe to travel to Port Charlotte, one of the hardest hit areas which also happened to be the location of HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital. This facility suffered major structural damage and flooding while staff still cared for a large number of patients. As soon as it was safe to mobilize EMS crews, the IST team, with the assistance of the HCA Transfer Center, the EPEO team, and the HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital staff, successfully transferred more than 150 patients to other HCA facilities throughout the state of Florida.
The IST team also assisted in setting up three “mini marts” within 48 hours which provided gasoline, household items, food, as well as mobile laundry and shower facilities for any HCA employee or family member in need.
"There is a great deal of perspective that is gained from seeing devastation like that created by Hurricane Ian and I was never more proud to represent HCA," Angie said.