Hurricane Planning

UTMB Damage

Hurricane remains UTMB’s #1 Priority Risk, therefore UTMB devotes a considerable level of effort toward preparation and mitigation of damage.

The UTMB Incident Command will decide on the strategies to use if it appears that a tropical cyclone could affect UTMB. Strategies could include:
  • Partial or full patient evacuation
  • Shelter-in-Place with patients

Factors affecting an evacuation decision by the Incident Command include:
  • Risk to patients and staff
  • The weather/flood forecast and forecast confidence
  • Time and resources available before the arrival of gale force winds or storm surge
  • The availability of receiving hospitals

Official Hazard Mitigation Plan: UTMB submits for approval a Hazard Mitigation Plan to Texas Division of Emergency Management and FEMA every five years. View the Hazard Mitigation Plan (UTMB personnel only)

This provides:

  • A planned risk mitigation strategy
  • Direct eligibility for FEMA Hazard Mitigation grants, and FEMA Public Assistance if we were to suffer damage 
UTMB Damage

    Emergency Module/Campus Model: UTMB developed an Emergency Module in our space management system. In this database the lowest level (above Mean Sea Level) of vulnerability to flood for each building system is recorded. This in essence provides a computer model of the campuses. We can enter an inundation level, and the Emergency Module will identify every building, floor, space, and system that would be affected by a hurricane flood. This capability allows us to model the effects of different storm scenarios for both exercises and real hurricanes:

    • to help determine our capability to maintain operations
    • to determine which Emergency Protective Measures are called for (e.g., flood gates, de-energizing electrical equipment)

    More information on this in the Disaster Recovery Plan (page 9), and the Readiness Report for buildings/missions (UTMB personnel only).

    SLOSH Modeling (Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes): UTMB uses Hurrevac and SLOSH modeling in conjunction with the Emergency Module to:

    • Plan for the effects and ability to continue critical missions for real storms
    • Develop hurricane exercise scenarios
    Ike Trigger Report 4
    Trigger Parameters
    Probability of Wind Impact
    PWI59 Graph (UTMB Personnel Only)

    Automated Trigger Reports: UTMB works with a contract meteorological service to provide automated Trigger Reports for hurricanes. Each Trigger Level (1-10) is based on these pre-determined meteorological conditions: 

    • The time to the worst-case scenario for the arrival of gale force winds
    • The Probability of Impact for a 58mph wind field

    UTMB departments should develop a set of planned actions to take for each trigger. In general: 

    Trigger One A storm is in the Gulf and it is not impossible that it will hit UTMB. Review plans and staffing.

    Trigger Two Consider activating/convening UTMB's Institutional Command Team (based on the totality of the information available). Contact response partners (including planned evacuation receiving hospitals).

    Trigger Three The Worst-case scenario arrival of Gale Force Winds is only 96 hours away. Arrival of Gale Force winds is a key determinant for response plans.

    Trigger Four Consider the possibility for shelter, partial or full evacuation. Based on the totality of the info available,  consider developing contingency plans.

    Trigger Five Worst case scenario for the arrival of Gale Force Winds is 48 hours away.

    Trigger Six The probability of impact from the storm is higher.

    Trigger Seven The Forecast Time of Arrival for Gale Force Winds is 36 hours away. The probability of impact at UTMB is higher.

    Trigger Eight  – The Probability of Impact is much higher (based on historical storms that actually made landfall on the Gulf coast).

    Trigger Nine Gale Force Winds are 24 hours away and the probability of impact is high. (If we have information that the Tidal Surge will arrive prior to the arrival of Gale Force Winds, the arrival of flooding waters will take precedence).

    Trigger Ten Winds have fallen below Gale Force. Consider all safety factors in deploying damage assessment teams and allowing controlled movement outside the buildings.

    Evacuation Planning: We must give our response partners sufficient time to plan so that they could support us in an evacuation. Our joint plans include sending the Evacuation Planning Form (below) to all partners as soon as we realize that it is possible that a hurricane could affect UTMB. This form provides partners with information on the number and types of transportation assets needed and the number and types of patients that could be evacuated. This form should be updated daily until:

    • A decision to evacuate is made
    • The hurricane has a zero probability of affecting UTMB

    Master Evacuation Roster / Emergency Memorandum of Transfer: Once a decision is made to evacuate, the Patient Evacuation Team will begin to populate the Master Evacuation Roster with patient names, demographic information (protected health information). This information will be shared via a secure SharePoint site with our planned receiving hospitals. For each patient listed, the receiving hospital and physician (with contact information) will be listed. Information from this process will be used to populate EMTrack to create a tasking mission for ambulance to transport each patient. 

    The ambulance service and receiving hospitals will assume responsibility for the patient when the patient is in their care.

    Note: The decision to evacuate will be made in coordination with city and state officials. UTMB will be in constant communication in the days leading up to the storm, during the storm, and after the storm. This coordination is critical for a safe evacuation. For instance, it is usually necessary to evacuate medical facilities before the general population, as well as coastal cities before inland cities. Severe bottlenecks can/will occur if steps like these are not done in the correct order. Communication and coordination are key!

    Tx Emergency Tracking Network

    Texas Emergency Tracking Network / Wrist Bands: The State of Texas maintains a tracking system for hurricane evacuees. TxETN wristbands are attached to each patient and they are enrolled in the system where name/drivers license, and location information is stored on a secure database at UT Austin. The nursing staff will attach wrist bands to the patient and enroll them in the system. TxETN equipment tags can be attached to any medical equipment that will accompany the patient so that the equipment will be associated with the patient. State ground and air ambulances will have a bar code attached. The code will be scanned into the network when the patient is loaded/unloaded (so that the final destination is recorded in the system for tracking purposes.

    Command Team: The UTMB President or their delegate will decide to convene the Institutional Command Team based on weather recommendations from Institutional Preparedness, National Weather Service, and contract meteorological services. The Health System may convene an incident management team at any time in order to prepare for the storm. The Institutional Command Team will oversee response planning for the storm and make decisions to include:

    • Deployment of Emergency Protective Measures/Plans to operational manage electric equipment
    • Shelter-in-Place with Patients
    • Partial evacuation
    • Full patient evacuation
    • Ride Out
    • Damage Assessment and Recovery
    • Demobilization
    • Restore Normal Operations
    Staff Shelter Jennie
    Staff Shelter Cot


    Shelter in Place with Patients: Recent climatological studies point to more frequent rapid development and rapid intensification of storms – particularly in the North Atlantic. This phenomenon results in less reaction time to plan and execute an evacuation.

    There is an increased frequency of Compound Incidents (simultaneous or cascading incidents) such as:

    • Covid plus hurricanes
    • Covid plus Arctic Weather plus multiple utility failures
    • Covid plus Cyber incidents

    Consequently, UTMB has developed a strategy to increase the robustness plans to Shelter-in-Place with Patients. New staff shelters are in place (suitable for use in infectious disease scenarios) at all campuses to support this strategy. Two shifts will alternate to provide continuous patient care. The Command Ride Out Team and support groups including Police will remain on campus.

    UTMB has a Facilities Emergency Plan to prioritize buildings that are to be locked down and those for sheltering in place. Color-coded maps are available for the Galveston Main Campus as well as the  Angleton Danbury, Clear Lake, and League City Campuses (UTMB personnel only).

    Glass: During a hurricane ride out, staff will be notified of forecast wind gusts in excess of 159 mph. In such cases, patients and staff should move to inner corridors away from exterior glass. In case of breakage, Facilities should be notified immediately. Patients’ footwear, clothing, and important personal items should be moved with the patient if possible in case a post incident evacuation is needed. 

    Post-Incident Evacuations: If the damage from a storm is greater than was foreseeable based on the forecast, a post-incident evacuation may be required. It is possible that electric power, elevators, cooling, dehumidification, and potable water will not be available. It is likely that transportation infrastructure could be blocked or damaged. UTMB has air support contractors and additional air support will be requested from the State as needed. 

    Galveston Ike Damage