This Is Not a Test

Vol. 13 No. 6

AuthorSirens blaring and weather alerts break the silence of the night.  It sounds like a train. This is not a test or a drill. Potential disaster is imminent. Are your healthcare clients prepared?

As we experienced unusual January tornado warnings in Mississippi in the wee hours of the morning, citizens crouched in hallways and interior rooms and prayed that the swirling beast would pass over their homes and businesses, while healthcare facilities prepared to receive potential victims and hoped the tornado would bypass their facility. The towns of Hattiesburg and Petal Mississippi experienced the worst of the destruction as the EF3 tornado cut a path across 15 miles of land, killing four, destroying hundreds of homes and leaving millions of dollars in damages. The hardest hit areas included a neighborhood, William Carey University and the Salvation Army campus. The largest hospital in the area, Forest General Hospital, was located very close to the path of the storm.

The leadership of William Carey University acted quickly, in accordance with plans and policies, and the University is on the road to recovery.  The University’s medical school buildings and lab sustained substantial damage, but they have been able to continue classes at a nearby university, University of Southern Mississippi, which stepped in to offer assistance.  USM suffered a similar disaster three years ago when a tornado cut a similar path through its campus. The importance of having first responders ready to make quick decisions was evident with the tornado this year, as the ambulance service provider closest to William Carey’s campus was also in the path of the storm. The dispatchers had to adjust quickly and find first responders who could access the campus. Precious time can be saved and lives preserved when facilities have an emergency plan, make sure that everyone in the organization knows the plan and has strong leadership to carry out the plan. William Carey’s recovery is nothing short of amazing. You can see pictures here:

Disaster preparedness is one of the most important functions for healthcare clients at all levels – facilities (hospitals, long term care facilities, rehab facilities), academic medical centers, physicians, allied healthcare professionals, and first responders.  These issues as well as other important issues are addressed by the Health Law Section’s Interest Groups.  HCFO (Healthcare Facility Operations Interest Group) led by Eric Weatherford of Dallas, TX works to discuss, publish articles and provide webinars on issues facing facilities. The Public Health Interest Group, led by Hal Katz of Husch Blackwell in Austin, TX addresses issues challenging our nation’s health including disaster preparedness. The ABA has a Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness that brings together lawyers from various disciplines to work on best practices. 

Collaboration among colleagues is one of the key benefits of becoming a member of one of the Health Law Section Interest Groups.  The Section offers Interest Groups in all of the major health law substantive practice areas, as well as education and outreach interest groups in Substance Use Disorders, Military and Veterans Health Issues, and Breast Cancer Advocacy. You can review the work of the Interest Groups at the Section’s website:

The best place to meet your colleagues in Health Law is the Emerging Issues in Healthcare Law conference offered this year March 8-11 in fabulous New Orleans, Louisiana (side note: home of my high school alma mater – Benjamin Franklin High School). The food is second to none, the networking opportunities will be spectacular and the opportunity to learn the latest information of importance to every health lawyer is a reason not to miss this year’s EMI conference. See you there and I encourage you to join an Interest Group (or two) today.

Joyce Hall


Chair Trivia:  Now that you know I grew up in New Orleans, here’s my famous trivia.  I played in the band with Grammy award-winning trumpeter Wynton Marsalis – the Benjamin Franklin High School Band, that is!


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