Department of Public Health teams mobilizing for Hurricane Michael

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NORTH ALABAMA -- Hurricane Michael is poised to slam Florida's panhandle Wednesday. So far, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama have issued a state of emergency, and thousands are under evacuation orders. In some areas, like Panama City Beach, officials are warning people to get out while there's still time.

Thousands of national guardsmen have been activated and hundreds of Florida state troopers are headed to threatened areas. Florida Governor Rick Scott is urging residents to take this storm seriously.

Crews with the Alabama Department of Public Health began to mobilize Tuesday in preparation to deploy for the storm, including two teams from north Alabama. None of the teams have been called for hurricane relief efforts yet, but they have to prepare as if they already been notified. because if they do get that call, they deploy immediately.

In Cullman, light wind rustles leaves. A blue sky peeks behind the clouds. And looking outside, it's hard to tell 300-miles away along the Gulf Coast people are preparing for a major storm. But inside the County Health Department, people are working quickly to aid in relief efforts.

"Today has been a hectic day," North Alabama Public Health Administrator Judy Smith said. The team assembled medical response bags Tuesday.

"They have basic medical supplies, you know blood pressure apparatus, blood sugar apparatus, those kinds of things," Smith said. "Public Health has a role to assist with medical needs, shelters, we also have a minimal role in mass care shelters."

24 people from north Alabama are standing by ready to head to the Gulf.

"The teams are made up of nurses, social workers and clerical folks. We send environmental folks for food safety," Smith said.

Nurses from north Alabama recently deployed for North Carolina to aid those affected by Hurricane Florence. Smith says the team was there for two weeks and the circumstances were 'horrendous'.

"There was actually a double amputee in one of the shelters who did not have shoes. Now the double amputee was an arm amputee and a leg amputee. One of our nurses wore a size 9 which is what this person needed. And she actually took off her shoes and gave them to this person," Smith said.

And they're ready to give that same care and compassion to people affected by Hurricane Michael.

The Department of Public Health has already begun to prepare shelters ahead of the hurricane. A medical response shelter is opening in Troy and a mass care shelter that can house up to 500 people has been set up in Baldwin County.

The decision to send the teams from Alabama will be based on the number of people who seek emergency shelter and the path of the storm.

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