ATLANTA -- As Irma moves closer, many metro Atlanta hospitals are stepping up to make sure the most vulnerable are safe from the storm's destruction.
Facilities like Northside Hospital and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta have begun to take in infant patients from south Georgia. Northside Hospital's Atlanta and Forsyth campuses, for example, say they've opened their doors to 11 infants.
According to a spokesperson with the hospital, 11 babies from the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit at Memorial Health Hospital in Savannah arrived with their parents on Friday.
Meanwhile CHOA tweeted a photo of staff prepping medical equipment to transport the "precious cargo to safer locations."
In all, the Georgia Department of Public Health facilitated moving a total of 59 infants on life support--from hospitals in the Savannah area to other hospitals in metro Atlanta and the rest of Georgia that are not expected to be impacted by hurricane-force winds.
Patrick O'Neal, M.D. is the Commissioner of Georgia DPH, and explained that the young infants, many of them premature, each had to travel inside a mobile ICU called an isolette to survive the hours-long evacuation.
"It will allow almost like a cocooning of the baby, so that it can be moved, very safely, maintaining all those requirements that the baby would have had in the original hospital," Dr. O'Neal said.
Georgia DPH has activated its emergency operation center--part of GEMA's state operations center--helping coordinate hospital evacuations across the state and making sure shelters for thousands of evacuees are staffed with doctors and nurses, and equipped with cots and necessary supplies.
And for many of the DPH employees, the mission is personal in every way.
“We want to take care of the citizens, of which, some of them are my family," said Chief of Staff Keisha Dixon. "We’d like to make sure that they’re taken care of.”
At this time, the Category 5 storm is poised to carve a destructive path up the Florida peninsula before pushing through the Georgia state line as a tropical storm. More than 90 Georgia counties -- including several in the Savannah-area -- are under a state of emergency.
But the fragile infants aren't the only evacuees seeking shelter from Irma in the Peach State.
Several of metro Atlanta's religious communities also announced they would be opening their sanctuaries to host thousands of evacuees from Florida and South Georgia. The Toco Hills Jewish community said they would be opening their homes to any Orthodox Jews fleeing south Florida. Meanwhile, several mosques said they "stand ready to provide the service to our neighbors of all faiths and backgrounds."
Aside from that, several volunteers also worked hard to get pets and animals out of the path of the storm. On Thursday, representatives from the Atlanta Humane Society traveled to central Florida to rescue shelter animals, and the Georgia Aquarium helped relocate several rescue sea turtles.
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