Mandatory Hurricane Evacuation - Can I be Forced to Work?

  1. Is it legal to make nursing staff stay at a hospital that was ordered by the Governor to evacuate for hurricane Florence . This hospital just was recently rated for only a category 2 hurricane and this hurricane is a Cat 4. This hospital is prone to flood, low lying area at the coast. They divided the nursing staff into 2 teams (A & B) and are requiring all of team A come in prior to hurricane and staying at this hospital even though the patients have been evacuated, they have a few patient that are supposedly not able to move. They have a sister hospital, also under mandatory evacuation , this hospital is rated up to a Cat 3 hurricane. They have transferred some of the patients from the hospital that is rated to withstand a Cat 2 to there sister hospital ( under mandatory evacuation )... waiver was denied to stay per Governor. I have no problem staying and working if I am provided a safe place



    Great question. This is such a difficult situation. Fortunately hurricanes are predictable. Hospitals are open 24/7 making it difficult to deal with these situations. Hospitals are faced with the decision to take the extreme action of closing and transferring their patients which is costly and potentially risky to the patient or to stay open and "weather the storm". Each hospital should have a disaster preparedness plan usually approved by their accrediting body. It is recommended that there be an A team and a B team both of equal competence. Team A for during the storm and team B for the aftermath. Your hospital's policies and procedures and your employee handbook should provide you with what is expected and if you are required to stay. This will supercede any advisements to evacuate the area. I am glad you are willing to stay and help your patients. You can also look to the hospital's policies and procedures on how they will keep the staff safe too. Preparation in these emergencies is the key. Hopefully it won't be that bad.
    Last edit by Joe V on Sep 12
  2. Visit Lorie Brown RN, MN, JD profile page

    About Lorie Brown RN, MN, JD

    Joined: Mar '18; Posts: 60; Likes: 88

    40 Comments

  3. by   not.done.yet
    If not us, then who? I am not saying everyone should abide by this philosophy, but I am saying it is MY philosophy.
  4. by   Elaine M
    But what about the hospital's duty to provide a safe place for you to work at? If you know your hospital is only rated for Cat 2 ( I've never heard of this but I don't dispute it) and this is Cat 4 then the hospital is putting you in danger. Hoping it's not that bad isn't going to cut it. I'm glad you're willing to take the risk but I have family responsibilities and I'm not.
  5. by   Idaho_nurse
    I dont understand how a hospital, which is rated only a cat 2 be allowed to keep patients in the facility under a mandatory evac order. This is putting the staff and all patients who remain at high risk. I wouldnt mind staying either but not at a hospital not rated to withstand the category hurricane that is due to arrive. My life means something to me and my family and my patients lives mean something as well. I wouldnt think they could be allowed to put people at risk, especially under an evac order.
  6. by   kamoity
    Hurricanes are predictable? Hardly. Take a look at Florence over the past couple of days. No one knows for sure where "she" is going to hit until it actually happens.
  7. by   Americangrams
    Hurricanes are hardly predictable. Just look at how Florence has changed in the last 3 days. And will continue to change. As nurses, we know that we have to work during critical periods, but, if a facility is not rated to withstand category 3 or 4 hurricane, and mandatory evacuation orders are in place by the governor, then a safer hospital should be found. Safe for staff, safe for patients.
  8. by   tonyl1234
    If it's in their policy, they can fire you if you don't. They can make that decision for themselves.

    BUT, you have a right to be safe. If you have to take care of your family in an emergency, that kind of takes priority. What's more important to you, a job or your family? Plus, you have to be able to get there. If it's dangerous and you can't get in, are you really making enough money to die over? Use your judgement. If you can safely make it in, though, go in and work. That's part of being an adult.

    Some jobs will make you go in before the storm and stay there. That's actually not bad. Most state employment laws say that means you have to get paid. If you're required to sleep at the hospital and you're not allowed to leave and handle your life, you're typically considered on the clock at at least minimum wage (that usually goes for emergency crews too).
  9. by   NurseSpeedy
    I've never heard of patients being "unable to be moved". I worked for a trauma hospital that had to move everyone out (different reason but a quick evacuation of everyone). We were filled to capacity at the time but had to for patient safety. Those who were most unstable were transported first so that they would have the resources needed to care for them.

    The staff were then sent to different hospitals throughout the area to work while we were closed. Coincidentally, there was a mild hurricane coming onshore during the whole process to top it off.

    During a massive storm last year one of my old nursing school buddies worked at a hospital right on the beach. They were evacuated due to storm surge potential. She was sent to one of the receiving hospitals to work through the storm.
  10. by   Kooky Korky
    Quote from Lorie Brown RN, MN, JD
    Is it legal to make nursing staff stay at a hospital that was ordered by the Governor to evacuate for hurricane Florence . This hospital just was recently rated for only a category 2 hurricane and this hurricane is a Cat 4. This hospital is prone to flood, low lying area at the coast. They divided the nursing staff into 2 teams (A & B) and are requiring all of team A come in prior to hurricane and staying at this hospital even though the patients have been evacuated, they have a few patient that are supposedly not able to move. They have a sister hospital, also under mandatory evacuation , this hospital is rated up to a Cat 3 hurricane. They have transferred some of the patients from the hospital that is rated to withstand a Cat 2 to there sister hospital ( under mandatory evacuation )... waiver was denied to stay per Governor. I have no problem staying and working if I am provided a safe place





    Great question. This is such a difficult situation. Fortunately hurricanes are predictable. Hospitals are open 24/7 making it difficult to deal with these situations. Hospitals are faced with the decision to take the extreme action of closing and transferring their patients which is costly and potentially risky to the patient or to stay open and "weather the storm". Each hospital should have a disaster preparedness plan usually approved by their accrediting body. It is recommended that there be an A team and a B team both of equal competence. Team A for during the storm and team B for the aftermath. Your hospital's policies and procedures and your employee handbook should provide you with what is expected and if you are required to stay. This will supercede any advisements to evacuate the area. I am glad you are willing to stay and help your patients. You can also look to the hospital's policies and procedures on how they will keep the staff safe too. Preparation in these emergencies is the key. Hopefully it won't be that bad.
    I don't see how a policy or employee handbook can supercede mandatory evacuation orders from the Governor.

    How can a civilian employer force its staff to risk, literally, life and limb when this extremely dangerous Hurricane Florence has been known about for quite some time, sufficient time to evacuate all patients?

    It's bad enough that police, fire fighters, paramedics must stay. But hospital or nursing home staff?

    What is the difference between advisements and mandatory evacuation orders?
  11. by   tinyRN72
    I agree. I don't understand how an employer's policy can supersede an ordered evacuation. I have lived in Florida for a long time. Hurricanes are not predictable. They change paths and they sometimes worsen. You get days, if not weeks to prepare, so why don't they follow the advisory and evacuate? I think most nurses would be happy to work as long as they are truly safe. It is assuring to know that if I do have to work a hurricane, I can take my family and even pets to the hospital with me, but for my family, patients and for myself, I think it is more prudent to evacuate to a safe area. As nurses are we not expected to make choices that any "prudent and cautious person" would make? Why aren't healthcare facilities held to that standard?
  12. by   Kratoswife
    Leave! No job is worth my life! The Ceo's are probably out of town by now!
  13. by   RobbiRN
    On the coast of Florida, I've worked before, during, and after several hurricanes. We are required to sign an annual agreement that we will work as assigned during storms. One of the hospitals in our network is routinely evacuated due to its location. Mine stays open. If I have a choice, I take "during." EMS doesn't run through the heart of the storm; no one is coming in and the hospital has a generator. Before and after are crazy. Best of luck to all in the path.
  14. by   Kooky Korky
    By "predictable" I meant we know she's a'comin'. I know the path and strength can change, as Flo is doing.

    But we know she's been on the way for a long time and that it's been possible to see where she is probably going to hit the hardest, as predicted by meteorologists and other professionals whose job is to figure this out.

    Thus it seems likely to me that evacuations could be planned and carried out well in advance of the worst of these disasters. Just my 2 cents.

    And I still don't see how an employer's orders (advisement, counsel) can top a Governor's Mandatory Evac Order. Yes, I'm sure they can fire you if they want to, no matter what.

    Thanks to all the brave nurses and best wishes to all.

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