3 ways hospitals can prepare for natural disasters

In the aftermath of deadly tornados that tore across the South this week, hospitals must prepare for high-impact weather events to remain intact and operational during severe natural disasters, according to a report from the American Meteorology Society (AMS) Policy Program.

Healthcare facilities can manage risk through three approaches aimed at reducing vulnerabilities, according to the report, which was created to help hospitals understand the risks facilities face during a natural disaster, resolve vulnerabilities and prepare for the continuity of health services. These strategies include:

  • Hardening structures. Address structural vulnerabilities through construction efforts for fortification. Floodproof areas that contain vital medical equipment used for procedures such as MRIs and CT scans. Move backup generators, and heating, ventilating, air conditioning and plumbing systems out of the basement and ground floor. Invest in commercial doors, such as those seen in shipping and receiving areas, and upgrade windows to withstand high winds, especially in wings such as the intensive care unit, where it isn't easy to move patients.

  • Incremental adaptations. Address operational vulnerabilities through smaller adaptive measures. Review electrical, water, HVAC and plumbing systems and consider implementing backup systems, especially for the electrical system, which must generate power for critical operations for at least 96 hours.

  • Innovative practices. Transform standard practices to improve their functionality. Rethink hospital facilities' locations to make them the most accessible to the community, considering scenarios such as damage to the transportation system after high-impact weather. Also add renewable energy resources, which can serve as a backup if the main power source is compromised.

"Our health facilities are too vulnerable to weather and climate events. We need to protect them more effectively and a comprehensive framework to assess and manage risk can help do that," Paul Higgins, director of the AMS Policy Program, said in an announcement.

To learn more:
- here's the report
- read the announcement