Mercy Hospital Hot Springs has been declared a StormReady community by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Mercy Hospital Hot Springs joins Arkansas Children’s Hospital and UAMS are the only medical facilities in Arkansas with this designation.
“StormReady encourages communities to take a proactive approach to improving local hazardous weather operations and public awareness in partnership with their local national Weather Service Office,” said Renee Fair, Meteorologist-in-Charge of the national Weather Service forecast office in Little Rock.
The community preparedness program uses a grassroots approach to help communities develop plans to handle local severe weather and flooding threats. The program is voluntary and provides communities with clear-cut advice from the local national Weather Service forecast office and state and local emergency managers. The program began in 1999 with seven communities in Oklahoma and has more than 2,000 nationwide today.
“Recent weather disasters that have affected hospitals – such as the tornado in Joplin, Missouri, on May 22, 2011, and Superstorm Sandy in the New York City area at the end of October – point up the need for hospitals to have robust plans in place to mitigate the effects of severe weather,” said John Robinson, Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the forecast office. “Garland County is a very active area for severe weather. Since 1950, the county has experienced 35 tornadoes, including five on one day, April 25, 2011. In addition, since 2006, the county has recorded more than 130 severe thunderstorms.”
Mercy Hospital Hot Springs went through a lengthy application process to be recognized as StormReady. This included establishing a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center; having more than one way to receive severe weather forecasts and warnings and to alert the public; creating a system that monitors local weather conditions and developing a formal hazardous weather plan.
The StormReady program is part of the National Weather Service’s working partnership with the International Association of Emergency Managers and the National Emergency Management Association.