Hurricane Gustav: How to Medically Prepare for an Evacuation

Just three years after the damaging effects of Hurricane Katrina, the hospitals of New Orleans are making preparations once again for another catastrophic storm.

Hurricane Gustav is projected to make landfall as early as Monday, and could bring a storm surge of up to 20 feet to the coast and rainfall totals of up to 15 inches.

“Of course, the number of hospitals working in New Orleans is much less than it was in the heyday,” said Dr. Manny Alvarez, managing health editor for

“But, the good news is that the ones that are open have changed dramatically and made preparations to withstand a major hurricane: They have generators on the third floor and have dug their own wells, so they have an autonomous water supply,” he added.

However, many critical care patients are being transferred to one of three major hospitals in Baton Rouge, La., Alvarez said.

Those hospitals include Our Lady of the Lake Hospital, Oschner Medical Center and Baton Rouge General Hospital.

Scott Miller, public information officer for Baton Rouge General Hospital, told Sunday that the hospital's mood was "anxious," but everyone felt prepared.

"I think we've recieved everything for additional supplies," Miller said. "We are going to activate the command center at 6 a.m. Monday. Right now the weather is calm and a little overcast. We aren't feeling any effects yet."

Coletta Barrett, vice president mission of Our Lady of the Lake Hospital, said her hospital had just begun the process of helping displaced patients within the region find new hospital beds.

Our Lady of the Lake is a command center that services about 12 to 18 hospitals within the Greater Baton Rouge area, Barrett said.

"We are discharging anyone who is ready to go home today, to make room for new patients," Barrett said.

Alvarez said if you are in an emergency situation and plan on leaving your home, there are three fundamental things to bring with you:

1. Any medicine you might take. If you have time to get refills, do so, but if not, bringing an empty prescription bottle will help the doctor know what kind of medicine to give you.

2. ANY medical records you have. “Sometimes this is just as important as anything else,” Alvarez said.

3 Lots of bottled water. “This is the first thing to become contaminated,” he said, “and it’s very hot and humid. You will need it.”