March 31st, 2009
05:27 PM ET

Disaster preparedness pays off in North Dakota

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/weather/03/27/north.dakota.flooding/art.rescue.fargo.cnn.jpg]
Sheri Fink

Last Thursday night, Dr. Bruce Pitts, an executive vice president at MeritCare Hospital in Fargo, ND, faced an excruciating decision. His two-campus hospital, the largest in the state, had whittled its patient population down through discharges and transfers as the Red River rose, but 180 patients remained. They included fragile babies in the neonatal ICU, complicated long term acute care adult patients, and high risk obstetrics patients. Moving them would be risky and difficult.

But just hours earlier, the predicted height of the river’s crest had jumped, and Pitts received word that a nearby dyke looked vulnerable. The Department of Homeland Security was encouraging local officials to consider a city-wide evacuation. Once the sun rose on Friday, the roads would likely be clogged with volunteer sandbaggers and residents fleeing town, including those from local nursing homes. If the State mandated an evacuation of all healthcare facilities, Pitts’ hospital, whose service area is roughly the size of the state of New York, would be competing for available ambulances and busses.


Filed under: Weather
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Joe G. (Illinois)

    How much is it going to cost the tax payers? And are they going to rebuilt in the same spots that just got flooded? What is the value gained by the sand bagging? In the long run.. Isn’t better to just move away from the river Already????????? Thank you and good day.

    March 31, 2009 at 7:42 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    Its nice that the lessons of Katrina saved some lives in this area. Formulating and practicing backup plans is a time consuming and frustrating experience that hardly anyone wants to do but when you actually need it in a real disaster, you see how much easier an evacuation can go and you have more confidence that everyone got to where they needed to be to receive th type of care they needed. Good for North Dakota. I hope we hear of more success stories like this.

    March 31, 2009 at 6:42 pm |
  3. Marcus King

    I just dont understand why on earth if this has happened before that they have not taken steps to re-enforce the levy's and not wait until the river threatens the area. With the president always speaking of repairing roads and bridges would'nt it be smart to invest in those places with overaged and ineffective levy's?

    March 31, 2009 at 6:35 pm |