Atlantic Shores Hurricane Preparedness Exercise Puts Virginia Beach in National Spotlight

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Emergency Response Drill Part of Award-Winning Retirement Community’s Commitment to Support Public Service

Emergency airlift via T-10 helicopter was part of the Atlantic Shores Evacuation drill

The Mid-Atlantic region will be very prepared for future disasters because of this drill

In the wake of a major hurricane, buildings are destroyed, airports flooded, and roads blocked, with patients at a long-term care facility in wheelchairs and on backboards awaiting an emergency helicopter airlift.

On May 7, 2018, a similar catastrophic disaster will unfold as a staged event at Atlantic Shores Retirement Community in Virginia Beach, in a full-scale exercise designed to help local, state and federal agencies work together to exercise emergency response plans and coordinate relief efforts for natural or man-made emergencies, ranging from natural disasters to shootings and bioterrorism.

The Atlantic Shores Evacuation is part of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Exercise Vigilant Guard, and Virginia Department of Emergency Management Virginia Emergency Support Team Exercise (VESTEX) series of preparedness events occurring across the Mid-Atlantic, April 30-May 11. The exercise is sponsored by The Eastern Virginia Healthcare Coalition (EVHC), and produced with input from the Atlantic Shores Evacuation Exercise planning team.

Each of FEMA’s 10 national regions are analyzed for threats most likely to affect area citizens. For the Mid-Atlantic region, FEMA’s National Level Exercise (NLE) 2018 will examine the ability of all levels of government, private industry, and nongovernmental organizations to protect against, respond to, and recover from a major Mid-Atlantic hurricane.

These unclassified exercises enact a specific disaster scenario, and give officials, observers, media personnel, and players from participating organizations the information necessary to observe or participate in real-time.

Other key players include the Air National Guard, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and the Virginia Department of Health.

According to Exercise Director Glenn McBride, Regional Healthcare Coordinator for Eastern Virginia Healthcare Coalition, “As part of the exercise, all players involved work together and rehearse their disaster relief capabilities with one main goal: unified support for the citizens affected. Relationships are built between state, federal, military and civilian agencies, and give each an understanding of how the others work. A disaster can strike at any time -- and the best way to mitigate the resulting fallout is through preparedness and extensive training. The Mid-Atlantic region will be very prepared for future disasters because of this drill."

The scenario for this exercise involves a post-storm response to a major hurricane that makes landfall near Hampton Roads, Virginia, causing severe damage to residences, businesses, and critical infrastructure throughout the entire region.

A long-term care facility was located in governor’s pre-evacuation area, and not all patients were evacuated. The facility sustained storm damage, requiring 30 patients to be moved. All nearby emergency healthcare facilities are at surge capacity. Local roads are closed and EMS ground transportation is limited to life-threatening emergency response, requiring request for a rotary wing airlift to move patients to further care. The closest airfield is underwater (Fentress). Patients will be airlifted to the nearest, Oceana, by T-10 helicopter from Ft. Eustis, for further transport by fixed-wing aircraft. Patients will be moved to different facilities throughout the state, based on availability in coordination with the Virginia Hospital Alerting and Status System (VHASS).

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria last year reinforced the need for coordinated preparedness, and NLE 2018 provides a well-timed opportunity to apply lessons from those storms in advance of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, which begins on June 1.

Atlantic Shores Retirement Community was selected to be the evacuating Long Term Care facility in the Eastern Virginia region. Atlantic Shores’ participation in this drill is evidence of the growing public safety partnership between state and local jurisdictions in response to the constant threat of natural disasters and terrorism our nation and communities face.

Donna Marchant-Roof, Atlantic Shores Managing Director of Healthcare shared, “We were honored to be chosen as the site for this vital exercise, and to be able to partner with key players in raising the local level of preparedness for disasters affecting our region. In turn, this drill is providing us with the ability to rehearse our emergency preparedness plan in a real-world setting with our entire staff, who will enact their actual job roles.”

Atlantic Shores is known for their active residents and staff, who share their gifts and talents to make the world a better place, through a variety of community impact programs benefiting youth, seniors, and military veterans.

Programs have included The Pin-Up Boys of Atlantic Shores charity calendar, featuring gentlemen from Atlantic Shores, creatively obscured to create the illusion of nudity in a range of comical vignettes, generating more than $20,000 to purchase a new ambulance for the Princess Anne Volunteer Rescue Squad. The community also hosted the Virginia Beach Police Department’s Senior Citizens’ Police Academy, designed to give participants a better understanding of the procedures, responsibilities, and laws that guide the police department's decisions, with live Special Operations, SWAT, mounted patrol and K9 unit presentations.

Atlantic Shores was recently honored with the distinguished CoVa BIZ Magazine Community Impact Award, presented to the top 10 local businesses consistently and creatively making an impact in the Hampton Roads area by giving back.

For more information on Atlantic Shores, visit http://www.atlanticshoresliving.com

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Beth Pursley