Storm ready

Transmission lines lie across Apres Vous Road near the Ranch Lot entrance at Teton Village after a blizzard downed several power poles alone the Teton Village Road in February 2017. The National Weather Service said St. John’s Medical Center is doing everything expected to be prepared for other such natural disasters.

Are you ready for the next big storm? St. John’s Medical Center is — officially.

For households, preparing for a cataclysmic weather event might involve stashing a radio, batteries, some food and water, and medications. And maybe a deck of cards.

For large facilities like schools or hospitals, the measures are a bit more intense: Staff needs ways to notify or evacuate people, as well as plenty of supplies, should they need to hunker down.

The National Weather Service recognizes facilities and governmental entities that take precautions before storms hit as “StormReady,” a designation it recently bestowed on St. John’s, one of Jackson Hole’s largest complexes.

Warning Coordination Meteorologist Tim Troutman from the agency’s Riverton office attended the hospital’s Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday to recognize its preparedness.

“The National Weather Service wants to make sure everybody is as prepared as possible,” Troutman told the board. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when something will happen.”

According to the agency’s website, 98% of presidentially declared disasters are weather-related. They lead to about 500 deaths and cost $15 billion annually in the U.S.

Extreme weather events like the February 2017 storm that brought down Teton Village power lines and closed every road out of Teton County can cut access to critical supplies like medicine and food. Being prepared can spell the difference between an inconvenience and an emergency.

To receive the StormReady designation, the hospital was required to have a 24-hour warning system and operations center, multiple ways of notifying the public, systems that monitor local weather, community seminars on readiness and a formal hazardous weather plan.

Troutman said St. John’s went beyond requirements with more ways to track weather and to alert the public than are necessary for the program.

He presented the hospital with a large metal sign to display that signifies its preparedness but also stressed that being ready is an ongoing process.

“This is not to say we are stormproof,” he said, “but that we have done everything in our power to be prepared. Saving lives and property is the No. 1 objective.”

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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