HAP Blog

The Solar Eclipse and Emergency Preparedness

Take these steps to prepare your teams and community

April 01, 2024

On April 8, people across the country—hopefully wearing proper eye protection—will gaze toward the sky to catch a glimpse of the total solar eclipse that’ll work its way up from Texas, into the midwest, through northwest Pennsylvania, into portions of New York, and finally exiting through the northeast United States.

Many communities and cities outside of the totality path will still see an impressive eclipse, so don’t disregard this event if you live outside the totality pathway. This interactive map can help you determine what you’ll see it in your town.

As the event approaches, emergency management professionals, first responders, health care officials, and community partners are readying themselves for issues that may arise, and there are several potential preparedness items that should be on your checklist.

Preparing for gatherings

In the Rochester region, local officials are preparing for an influx of nearly 500,000 visitors. A Buffalo official pointed out that the influx of visitors could potentially increase the number of fall victims, fractures, and heart attack cases, while increasing “the burden on the capacities” that handle regional response and care. And in Erie, hospitals along with EMS providers are finalizing plans to prepare.

“It's hard to predict what will happen, but we have been running through all types of scenarios," Dr. Christopher Clark, Saint Vincent Hospital president, told the local newspaper last month. "The one thing we are pretty sure about, we expect a lot of traffic issues."

Are you ready?

During the 2017 eclipse, coupled with normal, daily emergency room traffic, one Kentucky hospital saw an increase of 44 potential eclipse-related visits. With the 2024 event, the potential for eye injuries is grabbing many headlines, but knowing that an emergency can happen at any time, officials should consider other potential issues, as well.

You should be ready for an increase in traffic and the congestion it can bring. Traffic increases can delay 911 response times and prolong ambulance transport, which means critical care and treatment is delayed. While hospitals and EMS finalize their preparedness plans, adjust elective surgery schedules, and alter staffing models, other health care partners should plan and prepare. Dialysis centers may see a delay sending and receiving their patients. This can affect schedules, delay treatment, and extend staffing hours. Same for physical therapy and rehab facilities. Home health and visiting nurses will have to navigate the heavily trafficked roads. Skilled nursing facilities could also see a slow down with transport and support vehicles. Essential deliveries and on-hand supplies should be evaluated and manage appropriately. Routine appointments for residents may need adjusted, as well.

Key resource

For those just beginning their planning, utilize the Administration for Strategic Planning and Response’s 2024 Planning Guide to help get you started. This resource includes key takeaways on eye safety, injury treatment, federal resources, and other lessons learned from the 2017 eclipse.

Finally, reach out to your community partners, emergency management officials, hospital offices, and health care coalitions to gather a better awareness of your community and concerns. And, lastly, hope for clear skies, and take in this celestial event because the next contiguous total eclipse will not happen until 2044.

For additional information, contact Matthew Linse, HAP’s manager, emergency management.


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