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      The Valley Prepares for a Natural Disaster

      The Weslaco Fire Department Regional Medical Response Team is working with the lower Rio Grande Valley Council of Government and the Metropolitan Medical Response System, or MMRS, to prepare the Valley in an event of a mass emergency or natural disaster.

      They've designed shelters to aid in tragic events from hurricanes to terrorist attacks.

      It's been exactly one year since Hurricane Dolly slammed along the lower Texas coast. But, now the Valley is more prepared than ever. There are now two portable shelters that are able to inflate at a moments notice to help those in need. Mass care units or field hospital shelters are inflatable, portable sheltering operations that can quickly provide aid or shelter during a catastrophe.

      This is very important during a mass causality. We do need a place that we have secondary to our hospital. This is an excellent opportunity, said Larry Hinojosa, a Nurse with the South Texas Health System.

      These units relieve the burden of emergency rooms that quickly fill-up with people in immediate need of medical attention.

      Primarily, it's like a mass unit that's for mass causality event. Should the hospitals be overwhelmed, this would be set up in strategic locations to help assist the hospitals with mass people coming to the emergency room, added the Rio Grande Valley TMs Homeland Security Director, Manuel Cruz.

      Each shelter is self-sufficient and can hold up to 16 hospital beds.

      Hinojosa said, Each room has its own power cord, so we're able to connect it to any life sustaining machines we need.

      The field shelters have other uses besides temporary hospital rooms.

      It can also be set up as shelters or for patients in a disaster area, not necessarily at the hospital, but at the location where the disaster happens, said Cruz.

      Although these sturdy shelters can withstand 50 mile per hour winds, safety comes first when inflating a shelter.

      Cruz also said, The first responders will know best if it's safe. Of course, they don't want to endanger lives just by setting it up if the situation is more than the tents can handle.

      One shelter will be based in Weslaco and the other in Raymondville.