AHA before the House Homeland Security Committee: Emergency Preparedness Lessons from Hurricane Harvey

AHA statement before the House Homeland Security Committee on emergency preparedness and lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey.

On behalf of our nearly 5,000 member hospitals, health systems and other health care organizations, and our clinician partners – including more than 270,000 affiliated physicians, 2 million nurses and other caregivers – and the 43,000 health care leaders who belong to our professional membership groups, the American Hospital Association (AHA) appreciates the opportunity to submit comments on emergency preparedness and lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey.

On August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall on San Jose Island, Texas, south of Houston, as a Category 4 hurricane. After striking land, Harvey weakened to a tropical storm and, for two days, dropped heavy rainfall, causing widespread flash flooding. Over the course of a week, the storm caused record-breaking destruction, with more than 60 inches of rain and entire communities destroyed by flooding. Tragically, the storm caused 90 deaths and an untold number of injuries, both physical and psychological.

The nation witnessed the best of humanity as neighbors saved each other from floodwaters, emergency officials plucked stranded citizens from the roofs of their cars and homes, and strangers came to one another’s rescue. Throughout the storm and its aftermath, the women and men of Houston’s hospitals tended to their patients and provided care, even when their own families were being ravaged by the storm. These heroes cared for premature babies and patients just out of surgery during the worst of the storm and subsequent flooding. When hospital personnel could no longer operate due to safety concerns, they evacuated their patients to safety. Whenever possible, they kept the hospital doors open throughout the storm, even when they had to ration supplies to ensure every patient received high-quality care. These hospital heroes saved lives under the most difficult circumstances. We are incredibly proud of the women and men that provided care for those in need before, during and after Hurricane Harvey.