Keeping hospitals one step ahead of the storm

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Imagine a tornado roaring through your neighborhood.

Now, imagine being in a hospital, unable to easily take cover on your own.

"Straight-line winds and tornadoes, we rank those as the highest risk and highest possible damage that could occur to our community and facility," said Wayne Street, Director of Nursing with the Trauma Program at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire.

He knows tornadoes and hospitals are not a good mix.

That is why says they have a plan in place when severe weather moves in.

"We actually take all the patients we can, safely move them out of their rooms, and we actually move them into the hallway, out of harms way away from glass and into a concrete corridor," he said.

He says the building is made to withstand high winds and should be able to handle a tornado. Though there are no guarantees, just like we saw with a hospital after an EF-5 tornado ripped through Joplin, MO in May 2011.

For those that are on life saving machines that require power, red plug-ins found throughout the hospital could be the difference between life and death when the power is out.

The outlets are connected to a large generator.

"We have a pretty sophisticated generator system, about the size of a semi trailer and it runs on diesel fuel and we are able to be self sustaining for about 72 hours," he added.

"Hospitals through their accreditation agency are typically required to have some kind of plan in place," said Tom Hurley, Eau Claire County's Emergency Management Coordinator.

He says while hospitals are held to certain standards, other businesses should also make sure to look out for the safety of their customers. That means making sure employees have proper training.

"It's really incumbent on staff to direct customers to where the safest location will be in your business," Hurley added.

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