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How Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast Prepares for Major Hurricanes
Posted: 6/21/2018

MIRAMAR BEACH, FLA. (June 20, 2018) –In collaboration with the Walton County Emergency Management (WCEM) and the South Walton Fire District, Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast (SHHEC) developed a comprehensive hurricane evacuation plan to protect the safety of patients and provide emergency care before, during and following severe weather.

Sacred Heart’s hurricane plan is designed to prepare for the potential impact of a hurricane landfall within its service area. One part of the plan is to ensure that physicians and associates essential to staff the hospital are available before, during and after a hurricane. When hurricanes threaten our area, the hospital evaluates staffing, orders extra supplies of food, water and medications and tests backup generators to be ready for the worst-case scenario.

To further ensure readiness, the hospital’s incident command center team which is led by senior leadership, physicians and other key personnel, participate in tabletop exercises designed to practice scenarios of real-world events that calls for emergency response actions including a hurricane threat.

"Our tabletop exercises are performed in partnership with Walton County Emergency Management and South Walton Fire District,” said Darren Staggers, Safety Officer for Sacred Heart. “Their expertise and know-how in emergency situations is instrumental to a successful outcome whether it be a hurricane, active shooter or mass casualty event,” Staggers said.

“Our number one concern is always that our patients and associates are kept safe," said Roger Hall, President of Sacred Heart Hospital. “For a hurricane or any real-world emergency or our incident command team is ready to initiate safety measures to ensure the best possible outcome,” Hall said.

In certain hurricane threat conditions, the hospital will evacuate patients to more secure healthcare facilities away from the storm’s path. Those conditions include:

• When Walton County Emergency Management has issued a mandatory evacuation for one or more evacuation zones in Walton County, or an evacuation is deemed necessary for the safety of our patients and associates by the Hospital’s President/CEO.

• The hurricane must be at a category 2 or stronger and/or a projected storm surge of at least 6–8 feet. A category 2 hurricane has winds from 96 to 110 mph.

If hospital patients were to be evacuated, the plan calls for the hospital’s Emergency Department to remain open if it is logistically possible. The Emergency Department Incident Command staff will work directly with Walton County Emergency Management during the storm and will re-open to the public as soon as possible after the storm passes.

The Clyde B. Wells (331) Bridge in Walton County will close when there are sustained winds of 40 mph or higher. Additionally, Walton County Fire Rescue and the South Walton Fire District have a policy to discontinue the routine dispatching of emergency resources when winds reach or exceed this threshold. Should this occur, all requests for emergency services will be evaluated on a case by case basis by the South Walton Fire District to determine the appropriate level of response or if a response is feasible while considering for the safety of emergency personnel.

SHHEC remains in close contact with WCEM on the status of damaging storm threats and any evacuation measures. Please note that SHHEC does not serve as a public shelter during an emergency or disaster, such as a hurricane. Please visit the Walton County Emergency Management web site at and/or Facebook page at for information as well as a list of public shelters that will be activated. Residents can register to receive emergency notifications at

About Sacred Heart Health System
In Florida, Ascension operates Sacred Heart Health based in Pensacola and St. Vincent’s HealthCare based in Jacksonville. Together, Ascension operates seven hospitals and more than 100 other sites of care, and they employ nearly 10,000 associates. Across the region, Sacred Heart and St. Vincent’s have served North Florida communities for more than 145 years. In fiscal year 2017, they provided $168 million in community benefit and care of persons living in poverty. Ascension ( is a faith-based healthcare organization dedicated to transformation through innovation across the continuum of care. As the largest non-profit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system, Ascension is committed to delivering compassionate, personalized care to all, with special attention to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable. Ascension includes approximately 165,000 associates and 34,000 aligned providers. Ascension’s Healthcare Division operates more than 2,600 sites of care – including 153 hospitals and more than 50 senior living facilities – in 22 states and the District of Columbia. For more information on Sacred Heart Health System, visit

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