East Texas Is Ready For Gustav

Gathering comfort kits, medical supplies, and lots of food. If Gustav grows and slams into the Texas or Louisiana coast, East Texas is ready to help.

"Cots, blankets, we work real close with a lot of the other agencies," said Pat Shannon with the Smith County Chapter of the American Red Cross.  "The food bank -- be sure they can supply food for us, the Salvation Army and so forth. The Baptist Men's Association -- make sure they can cook for us."

"I know we'll probably be deploying 5 units and a strike team leader," said Johnny Brown, ETMC EMS paramedic.

In a statewide conference call Thursday, emergency responders get up to speed, preparing for when and where Gustav could make landfall.

"This thing feeds off warm air, and it's going to have a long way to go before it reaches the coast," said Luis Fernandez, M.D., Trauma Chief at Trinity Mother Francis. "Its got at least another 300, 400 miles before it goes through here, so it could strengthen up."

While responders get ready to answer the call for aid, hospitals, hotels and shelters are bracing for a wave of evacuees.

"Worst case scenario? Maybe 40,000 people moving up this direction," said Shannon.

"We'll look at buildings that are not necessarily designed for medical care and convert them either to shelters or in-place hospitals that take care of significant number of patients without overloading the existing hospital system, which is what we did in Rita," said Fernandez.

Like other hospitals, Trinity Mother Francis has medical staff who've completed FEMA training. They've increased resources and added back-up communication systems.

"Large winds come through, cell towers fall down, guess what your cell phone doesn't work very well," said Fernandez.  "So we've developed an in-place HAMM radio capability that can communicate not only regionally but throughout the state."

Entire communities coming together with one goal: to avoid a disaster like 3 years ago.

The American Red Cross has already spent a lot on supplies. If you would like to help, they are asking for monetary donations.

Courtney Lane, Reporting  clane@kltv.com