After 30 years in the Navy, Glen Baker has his own set of experiences riding out hurricanes all across the country, but Hurricane Harvey was his first time as a hospital facilities manager.
Baker even rode out Hurricane Hugo in 1989 from inside a submarine while based in Charleston, S.C.
His years of training have helped him stay calm—even in high-pressure situations, such as when the Angleton Danbury Campus lost power on Aug. 26 in the middle of the night, he said.
On Friday before the storm hit, a generator unit was delivered to ADC to help support the hospital’s chillers, which did not have a permanent generator connected.
The facilities crew was waiting on a breaker switch to install so if the hospital lost power, they would be able to move it over to the generator easily. Unfortunately, the breaker was being flown in on Friday and did not arrive to the campus until that evening when the torrential rain began.
This did not deter the facilities team.
“We were out in the storm installing the breaker,” Baker said.
This proved to be invaluable because when the hospital lost power Saturday night, they were able to switch the chillers to generator power quickly, said Katrina Lambrecht, vice president and administrator of the Angleton Danbury Campus.
The facilities team also was supported by Anthony Gutierrez and his environmental services team, who jumped in to help them get the emergency power going and air handlers switched over to the generator. They also helped troubleshoot other issues that came up when the hospital lost power.
“Anthony’s willingness to dive right in epitomizes the spirit of every person on site in Angleton during the storm,” Lambrecht said. “Everyone was pitching in to do what needed to be done.”
Gutierrez, the environmental services manager, had a team of six employees, including himself, that would ride out the storm. All six of those employees stayed on campus the entire time.
“For those six days, we answered to whatever came up,” Gutierrez said.
Ronnie Walker, a utility technician from the Galveston Campus, was a great example of that, said Marcel Blanchard, associate vice president of utilities operations.
On three separate occasions, when high-water vehicles were needed, Walker volunteered to move people and materials between campuses. At one point, when all means of access were flooded, he shuttled doctors to a point in Dickinson where they could then be moved by boat to the League City Campus, Blanchard said. He also helped transport an ICU nurse and materials to League City.
In addition, Walker and Dan Marsh, a senior environmental protection specialist, drove across the Bluewater Highway and San Luis Pass to retrieve blood and deliver cots for the Angleton Danbury staff.
He was also able to identify a safe route for a local ambulance operator who was willing to transport a dialysis patient back to UTMB.
“They had previously declined to make the trip because of unknown road conditions,” Blanchard said. “Walker and Mr. Marsh escorted them back.”
Gutierrez himself was involved in helping with tasks way beyond his usual job description—like helping load a Black Hawk helicopter with blood, he said. Gutierrez set up a rotation for staff to be able to do their laundry once it became clear they were not going home and staff was in need of clean clothes, Lambrecht said.
“Many times the EVS team finished laundry that someone else had started because they got called to other issues related to patient care or another crisis,” she said.
The environmental services team was always very calm, always helpful, and provided a presence that made you feel like things were almost normal, Lambrecht added.
“That was important to us,” Gutierrez said. “To remain cool, calm and collected. I knew, if I get nervous, they’ll get nervous.”
It was that kind of mentality and life-long training that helped manage the stress of it all, Baker said.
Even when you hear stories of patients and co-workers who had lost everything, Gutierrez said.
“It was all hands on deck,” he said. “We all had to be there for each other and for the hospital.”