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San Joaquin County to get $500,000 in disaster equipment funds

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Posted: Monday, March 10, 2008 10:00 pm

San Joaquin County will soon acquire nearly $500,000 in federal funds to save people during fires, floods and other diasters.

Lodi Memorial and five other hospitals throughout the county will receive a total of 26 special "evacuation stair chairs" so that disabled people can escape during a national emergency, said Dan Burch, the county's emergency medical services administrator.

The county will also acquire 111 beds and medical supplies to help disaster buildings in a gymnasium or other building used to house natural disaster victims.

"Basically, we can set up an alternate hospital if we have to," Burch said.

Funds will also go to the county morgue, exercises and training, decontamination equipment and to register and credential medical volunteers.

The evacuation stair chairs will be allocated to six hospitals in the county above the first floor, Burch said. The exception is Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Manteca, which already has evacuation stair chairs, he said.

Lodi Memorial Hospital will get some of the chairs, but Burch said he is uncertain how many the hospital will get.

The county will receive $419,213 in funds from the U.S. Department of Health Services, but it was allocated by the California Public Health Department. The evacuation chairs constitute $68,120 of the grant.

They're technically called bioterrorism funds because the grant program was established after 9/11 and the following anthrax scare, Burch said, but the funds are now as much for natural disasters as for terrorism.

Some of the federal hospital preparedness grand allocations in San Joaquin County include:
• $13,000 for evacuation blankets, where a disabled person, with the help of hospital personnel, can slide down a hospital hallway.
• $80,155 to expand radio communication between ambulance and hospital personnel to include Clements and the Corral Hollow area between Tracy and Altamont Pass.
• $85,226 to buy 111 beds and medical supplies to staff a non-hospital site, like a gymnasium during a disaster.
• $35,880 for additional shelves to increase capacity at the county morgue. The county will also purchase 1,000 extra body bags with these funds.
• $44,298 for exercises and training.
• $5,750 for decontamination equipment.
• $6,784 to register and credential medical volunteers.
Source: Kenneth B. Cohen, county health care services director.

"In general, you can never be too prepared for an emergency," said Carol Farron, community development director at Lodi Memorial Hospital.

Lodi Memorial has three stories above ground and one underground, Farron said. And the hospital is constructing a four-story addition, all of which is above ground.

Lodi Memorial Hospital doesn't have any evacuation stair chairs, Farron said.

Burch said that some EMS organizations like American Medical Response have chairs.

The chairs have a tread that provides a special grip to hold onto the stairs, said David Durand, a paramedic and trainer at AMR.

"We have these on every ambulance, and they work well when getting people up and down stairs when they are immobile," Durand said in an e-mail to the News-Sentinel. "They fold up nicely to stow away."

Burch said he doesn't know how soon the chairs and other emergency equipment will arrive to the county, but it will be before Sept. 30. The county will lose its money if it isn't spent by then, he said.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to officially accept the grant funds at today's board meeting.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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