Local hospitals prepare for during, after snow storm

WASHINGTON – There’s an old saying that goes: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

That’s been the motto of local hospitals during the mid-February snow storm.

Thanks to accurate early warning from weather forecasters, most area hospitals were able to make contingency plans to make sure they were at full staffing when the snow started to fall.

A few — particularly those located off side streets — asked for volunteers with 4-wheel drive to ferry employees to work.

But most — in particular, George Washington University Hospital in the District – – put staff up at nearby hotels, or sheltered them in place, starting Wednesday afternoon.

While the wards at GW were bustling during the storm, Dr. Babak Sarani — Chief of Trauma Surgery — says business in the emergency department was light.

He says “the public did a really good job of listening to the warnings and staying home and not really coming out to the roads.”

But Sarani acknowledges that is not likely to be the case once the storm has moved out. He says that is when the ER is likely to be very busy.

“At some point we have to get back to life and I am always worried people let down their guard, and you start seeing what would otherwise be preventable injuries,” he says.

Sarani warns people who pull out their cars need to be aware of the dangers of black ice, and pedestrians have to watch out for glazed sidewalks.

That is especially true for the elderly, who are more likely to fall on the ice and suffer a fracture, be it to an arm, ankle or — in the worst case — a hip.

Another concern is all those middle-aged and older snow shovelers, who aren’t used to such vigorous exercise.

Sarani suggests shoveling in stages, and stopping completely at the first sign of discomfort.

“If you feel short of breath, if you start feeling any form of chest pain, absolutely stop right away,” he emphasizes.

One last bit of advice for those who lose power during the snowstorm – never use a stove or outdoor heater indoors for warmth. Sarani says that is a prime recipe for a fire, if not carbon monoxide poisoning.

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