A Deeper Look at BCFS Health and Human Services EMD’s Work During the 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season

BCFS Health and Human Services EMD is a Texas-based organization that provides a wide range of emergency management services. It’s a leader in public health disaster response, medical care for large groups, medical sheltering, and helping people displaced by disasters. It’s part of a global system of nonprofits that helps people throughout the world. 

In 2008, the agency helped Galveston, Texas-area residents to overcome the challenges posed by one of the United States’ most destructive hurricane seasons. Three major hurricanes made landfall in Texas that year: Dolly, Gustav, and Ike. At the time, the damages caused by these storms was the third deadliest Atlantic Hurricane Season on record, which caused more than $50 billion dollars in damages across multiple states. 

EMD sets up and manages on-demand medical shelters and care that’s designed to handle thousands of people a day. For the 2008 hurricane season’s impact in Texas, the organization cared for more than 17,000 responders and affected evacuees. EMD handled relocating Galveston evacuees to Galveston Island in late October 2008 and continued to support this displaced population with medical and transportation services. 

EMD was the only non-governmental body to manage Federal Medical Stations (FMS) during this disaster, as part of the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS). An FMS is a cache of medical supplies and equipment that can be used to set up a temporary non-acute medical care facility. Each FMS has beds, supplies, and medicine to treat 250 people for up to three days. A 250-bed FMS set consists of modules, including base treatment (medical supplies, beds), base support (infrastructure and administrative supplies), pharmacy, and laboratory. EMD quickly built and managed two of the three FMS stations, with the other operated by federal staff members. The organization helped guide the other FMS through multiple challenges, such as its limited integration with local agencies, and issues such as duplicate supply request orders. 

Routine services conducted within the FMS included monitoring vital signs, bed service, medication administration, and refill maintenance. Nurse teams scheduled dialysis appointments for guests and coordinated with transportation teams for transport. Shelter guests had a variety of non-acute medical conditions, predominantly respiratory. Respiratory therapists were staffed to work therapeutically with guests suffering from pulmonary disease.

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