Hospital resiliency most important after natural disaster, emergencies

High-impact weather events across the country have some experts wondering if hospitals are resilient enough to overcome the aftermath of storms, tornados, hurricanes and floods, according to the Florida Times-Union.

Jim Blair, president of the Center for HealthCare Emergency Readiness, questions whether hospitals that haven't had a recent disaster are truly prepared. Hospitals must prioritize conducting location intelligence, pinpointing close-by possible threats, and identifying vulnerabilities within the hospital, the Times-Union reported.

One of the first actions hospitals and health systems can take to build resiliency is know which systems are in place that can be expanded on short notice to serve more people in a hurry, said Thomas Frieden, M.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the article.

It's a problem the government takes seriously. The Hospital Preparedness Program and the Public Health Emergency Preparedness program distributed $840 million to public health care systems in Georgia. The funds ensure local communities can respond effectively to infectious disease outbreaks, natural disasters, or chemical, biological or radiological nuclear events, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Funds like those from the federal programs will help facilities that lose power during storms, like those earlier this year in Augusta, Georgia, Adrianne Feinberg, director of emergency preparedness at Georgia Hospital Association, told the Times-Union. "A concerted effort among healthcare partners and emergency management agencies resulted in generators and other resources being allocated to the affected facilities," Feinberg said.

The American Meteorological Society suggests medical centers examine their structural designs and relocate critical components to higher ground, citing Hurricane Katrina submerging many essential facilities in New Orleans for weeks, leaving behind the bodies of 200 patients who were eventually recovered from area hospitals and nursing homes after the hurricane, according to the article.

In New Orleans, reconstruction of a Veterans Affairs facility will feature emergency rooms at least 20 feet above base flood levels, along with kitchens, electronic components, and emergency generators on upper floors. In Joplin, Missouri, Mercy Hospital Joplin reconstruction after a devastating tornado two years ago will include construction of safe rooms deep in the core of the building and three different kinds of glass of different wind-protection levels.

To learn more:
- here's the Times-Union story
- check out the AMS report