The Glass Fire in Napa County, California, forced thousands of evacuations, including 55 patients at a local hospital, CNN reported.
During a pandemic, this is an especially serious decision to make. So what does it take for officials to make that call?
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality offers a guide on when hospitals should evacuate and how to do it safely.
“Building integrity, critical infrastructure, and other environmental factors must be assessed to determine whether the hospital can continue to provide appropriate medical care to patients or should instead be evacuated,” the agency’s website states.
If the hospital building is not damaged, officials must then move to assessing patient and staff safety. In the case of the Glass Fire, officials at the Adventist Health St. Helena hospital made the decision to evacuate before the fire could do any structural damage, according to KGO.
“The last one was eight miles away and now with this one we are in imminent danger,” Linda Williams, a spokeswoman for the hospital, told KGO.
A few staff members stayed behind to take some last-minute safety measures, KGO reported.
The hospital was evacuated because the fire posed an “immediate threat to patient/staff safety,” the AHRQ website says. “The evacuation of major portions of Mt. Sinai (New York) hospital during a building fire in 2009 illustrates this situation.”
In a scenario where the threat is not imminent, but rapidly evolving, officials move to the next steps in the decision-making process: “Wait and Reassess, or Evacuate?”
“Absent a compelling reason to evacuate, the decision should be deferred and reconsidered at a later point, at which time the situation could significantly improve (i.e., no threat to patient/staff safety), significantly worsen (i.e., immediate threat to patient/staff safety), or not change significantly and require further careful assessment.”
The Glass Fire has destroyed the Chateau Boswell Winery and the Black Rock Inn, The Sacramento Bee reported. It has burned nearly 11,000 acres and is 0% contained, according to The Bee.
“How nerve-racking is to hear those helicopters fly over your home? It’s honestly like a war zone,” Carlo Navone, whose family had to evacuate, told KGO.
The Boysen Fire and Shady Fire, which are believed to be spot fires from the Glass Fire, also forced evacuations, including about 100 senior residents living at the Oakmont Village retirement community, according to NBC.