Hurricane Irma Teamwork: How Chapters Health System Banded Together

Hurricane Irma teamwork

Every year from June through November, we know there is always the possibility that a hurricane could head our way as Florida residents. This year, as the official end of the summer came to pass with the arrival of Labor Day weekend, our collective eyes turned to watch the progress of Irma track across the Caribbean and set its sights on Florida. Barbecues, beach days and summer blockbusters were all put on hold as Floridians raced to get ready for the purported Category 4-5 wrath of Hurricane Irma.

Getting prepared for a major hurricane takes on a whole different meaning when it comes to hospice patients and families. In today’s blog post, learn how Chapters Health System banded together for the entire duration with Hurricane Irma teamwork.

Pre-Hurricane Irma Teamwork

Prior to Irma’s arrival in the Tampa Bay area, one of the first tasks at hand was converting the University of South Florida’s Sun Dome  into a special needs shelter. It officially opened Friday, September 8, well in advance of any inclement weather. LifePath Hospice staff—nurses, aides, chaplains, social workers, volunteers and physicians—were all on hand to help care for hospice patients, and evacuees with special needs.

Also in attendance at the Sun Dome was AllCare Medical Supply, the durable medical equipment (DME) provider for all Chapters Health affiliates. The following is one shared story that demonstrates Hurricane Irma teamwork:

“Our DME driver from AllCare, D’Ron, came with a delivery on Friday and stayed with us all weekend. He was a joy to work with and pitched in wherever we needed an extra hand. He also knows sign language and was able to communicate with one of our hospice patients who is deaf, alleviating worry and concern. Team Sun Dome was awesome!”

— Pam Orlosky, Clinical Manager, LifePath Hospice

Additionally, across all Chapters Health affiliates—Good Shepherd Hospice, HPH Hospice and LifePath Hospice—the hospice houses needed to be readied. During the storm, the facilities not only would care for admitted patients but also shelter those who needed to evacuate. Many employees and volunteers stepped up to the plate to assist those who might not have the means or support.

“We had 15 volunteers step up and help get ready for the storm. I had one volunteer ’fight the lines‘ in stores Friday so that a patient had food and water as she was staying in her home during the storm.”

—Kathy Karamitsos, Volunteer Coordinator, HPH Hospice

In all the hurricane preparedness, an important lesson learned from past hurricanes was to make sure employees could expect their normal paycheck deposits post-Irma.

“Prior to Hurricane Irma’s arrival, our Finance Department worked tirelessly to ensure that payroll would be processed timely so all Chapters Health employees would be paid the following Friday as normal and on schedule.”  

—Jill Fitzpatrick, Associate Vice President, Finance, Chapters Health

During Hurricane Irma Teamwork

Hurricane irma teamworkAs Hurricane Irma inched closer to the entire Chapters Health service area and curfews were put in place, many staff members and volunteers needed to ride out the course of the storm at the special needs shelter and hospice houses. These individuals had to stay put until it was safe to travel again and their relief arrived. In some cases, this meant from Sunday morning, September 10, until Tuesday morning, September 12.

Marliere Hospice House had a few nurses and staff who stayed at the house and worked extra shifts through the storm, going above and beyond to make sure our house patients and evacuees were well cared for.  A few that come to mind are Sheryl Capshaw, RN; Jean Curran RN; Jennifer Turner, RN; Emily Burkett, LPN; Sherri Weddington, Paulakay Johnson, Teresa Rye, Rosemary Raczon and several others. Patient caregivers joined the ranks and assisted with passing meal trays and other tasks that needed to be done. Everyone remained positive and calm despite the weather conditions and no air conditioning.”

—Cyndi Cortes, RN, BSN, CHPN, Regional Director, HPH Hospice

The following two stories were shared by Kirsten Black, Volunteer Coordinator at LifePath Hospice, and demonstrate Hurricane Irma teamwork on a different level.

“Our Bereavement Specialist Corinne Gaertner took in one of our 82-year-old volunteers during the storm because she lives alone and her entire 36-unit building evacuated. Corinne called to check on her (and a couple of other volunteers who live alone in South Tampa) and found out at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday that our volunteer was all alone in her building. Corinne and her husband went to get Marcia and took her into their home for the duration of the storm.

“I wanted to also report that we had a volunteer with us at the Sun Dome from Saturday through Monday afternoon. Michelle Miller-Schumacher arrived mid-afternoon and helped us hold sheets to shield patients during personal care, stood in long food lines and delivered food to patients, sat with patients/caregivers to provide companionship and support, gave chair massages to achy staff, and assisted Regional Director Diana Yates and Clinical Manager Sally Bailey with coordinating plans to get patients back home from the Sun Dome as soon as possible.”

Post-Hurricane Irma Teamwork

As the state of Florida and the Chapters Health family slowly recovered from the onslaught of Hurricane Irma, a different mindset and aspect of Hurricane Irma teamwork developed.

“As a manager, what touched me the most was not only the love, concern and commitment my staff have for their patients but also the genuine love and concern they have for one another and each other’s families. Our social work staff, consisting of Allison Nichol, Judy Streveler and Sarah McKay, worked diligently on Monday making preparations to get all of the evacuees back home safely, in addition to their regular duties. They have been nothing less than true champions in doing so. The staff remained focused and upbeat the entire time despite being asked to complete tasks that aren’t normally their responsibility. They completed each task well and with a cheerful heart. This Sturgill Hospice House team is definitely the best model for exemplifying true teamwork and team spirit. They truly are ‘Sturgill Strong.’”

—Kimberly Phillips, RN, Clinical Manager, Sturgill Hospice House, HPH Hospice

As the days progressed, it became painfully clear that many employees and patients were adversely impacted by Hurricane Irma—property was destroyed, mementoes lost, power was out, and food and gas were scarce. Chapters Health quickly set the wheels in motion to gather any needed items from water to propane tanks to dry shampoo to peanut butter and then some.

“It totally blew our minds the amounts and items that just kept coming and coming off the trucks.  Employees were in tears picking up their care packets based on their needs they emailed to me.  It is such a great feeling to know others took the time to provide supplies and write the beautiful words of encouragement to the staff here.  I am honored to be a part of such a caring team.”

—Jennifer Forde, RN, BSN, Regional Director, Good Shepherd Hospice 



At Chapters Health System, every day is devoted to educating our patients and keeping them in the place they call home. We are dedicated to ensuring that patients, young and old alike, and their families are able to make educated decisions about important healthcare matters. For more information, please call our helpful Chapters Health team at 1.866.204.8611 or send an email to

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Corporate Communications for Chapters Health System, manages all content and communications for the not-for-profit organization.

hurricane irma teamwork

Post-Irma Resources

After a hurricane, recovery can be even more stressful and challenging than preparation for and living through the actual weather. We thought it would be helpful to provide some resources for those who suffered property damage as a result of Hurricane Irma.

Forbearance for Mortgage and other Loans

With many Florida homeowners suffering damage to their property, many might have trouble making their normal mortgage payment. Since so many counties across the state have been declared a federal disaster area, homeowners may be eligible for a deferment or forbearance of their mortgage payment.

What does this mean?

Your mortgage may be waived for a set number of months at no adverse credit effect on you. Unfortunately, it is not automatic. You must contact your mortgage lender, and apply for the deferment. Typically, each mortgage lender has a different set of rules. Therefore, it is a good idea to call and ask. If you skip a couple of payments, the lender usually will add the payments to the end of the loan without any negative impact to your credit. However, during this time, interest will still accrue.

You can look up your mortgage company via Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Additionally, many banks and credit card companies are extending the same forbearance of payments similar to mortgage companies. Check directly with your bank and/or credit card company to find out their specific policy.

Insurance Policy Holders

On Monday, September 18, Gov. Rick Scott signed an emergency order to help homeowners post-Hurricane Irma. The governor’s order gives homeowners an additional 90 days to send required information to their insurance companies. This allows Florida residents affected by Hurricane Irma enough time to update information in order to prevent insurance policy cancelation.

FEMA Disaster Hotline Information

FEMA has designated the following counties as those eligible for assistance:

Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, Columbia, DeSoto, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Nassau, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Sumter, Suwannee, Union and Volusia.

Visit to apply for assistance online.  If you experience difficulty applying online, you may also call (800) 621-3362 / TTY (800) 462-7585 to apply during standard hours of operation (7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Time), 7 days a week.

You can also check your application status at Survivors have 60 days from the date of a declaration for Individual Assistance to apply for assistance.

Free or Low-Cost Legal Advice

The following are some resources for people who might have already applied for hurricane assistance and been denied, or need legal advice for a claim.

Bay Area Legal Services, Inc.  is a nonprofit, public interest law firm that provides civil legal assistance to low-income residents in the Tampa Bay region.

Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, Inc.  is the primary provider of free legal aid for low to moderate income residents in Central Florida.

Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc.  is a private, non-profit corporation, which provides free civil legal services to indigent families and low-income elderly people in thirteen counties of South Central Florida.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!