LUMBERTON — Southeastern Health is hoping for the best and preparing for the worst as the hours count down before the impact of Hurricane Florence on its Lumberton and Robeson County facilities.
Lessons learned during Hurricane Matthew have been invaluable, said Joe Buri, director of Facilities and Engineering Services. Lengthy power and water outages caused by Hurricane Matthew stretched the hospital to its limits.
A major communication upgrade is the first, important improvement, Buri said.
“With our new communications system, we can stay connected with our staff via text messaging, phone and email,” he said. “The system plots every staff member’s home, so we can know who is available and who cannot come in.”
The hospital’s generators are routinely tested, maintained and are ready, Buri said. One failed during Hurricane Matthew.
“We are always testing, and the generators are in good shape, although aging,” he said. “We did not get FEMA funding to replace them, and we are looking at other options.”
Another large generator is in route to Lumberton. It will power the hospital’s air conditioning system. The existing three generators do not power the hospital’s chillers.
“We are expecting hot weather, so air conditioning will be needed,” Buri said. “We will be cool.”
If Lumberton’s water plant were to fail again, the hospital would rely on several shallow wells and tanker loads of water. After Hurricane Matthew, the hospital used six to eight tankers a day.
“We got a grant to drill a deep well,” Buri said Tuesday. “They started work yesterday.”
Matthew causes massive local flooding, but the Lumber River was at flood stage when it hit. This time around the river is 6 feet below flood stage and emergency officials appear confident flooding will be limited.
Water leaks in the building’s exterior have have been addressed. Roof repairs and tightening of walls and windows have been addressed.
“Florence may expose new weaknesses,” Buri said. “We have an exterior program on the bed tower that is ongoing.”
Southeastern Health’s people are getting ready, too. Buri has told his staff to get ready at home because they may be needed round the clock.
“We’ve learned a lot from the past, and we’re confident,” Buri said. “Everything is checked, and we’re just waiting on the storm.”