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What If You Can't Run?

No one wants to be sick. Being sick makes you feel vulnerable and dependent on others.
A hospital is a place where you should feel safe and secure. But what happens when a natural
disaster occurs and you happen to be in the hospital? What happens if you can't get away? What
happens if you can't run?

In the middle of urricane !andy" in November #$%#" at the &angone 'edical (enter" the
basement and lower floors were filled with ten to twelve feet of water. )he hospital also lost all
electrical power. )hey had emergency generators" which up until this time" had always been
sufficient" but these generators lost *$+ of their power after only two hours of use. )he hospital
had no choice but to evacuate #%, patients. -.oney" #$%#/
0In a difficult situation" there isn't time for you to work on your weaknesses"1 said
2aniel 2iamond" a medical doctor who led one of the first medical teams into aiti following the
great earth3uake of #$%$.
At this same period of time" 4aul 5arwood of the World ealth 6rgani7ation estimated
that there were at least *$"$$$ hospitals and other health centers which were vulnerable to
disasters. -5arnwood" #$%$/ 6nly ,$+ of health facilities had any budget allocation for
emergency preparedness. -5arnwood" #$%$/
4art of the problem is that hospitals have focused so much on patient treatment and care
that they often have overlooked preparation for response to natural disasters like earth3uakes"
flooding and e8treme weather" among others.
!ometimes it takes a tragedy to wake people up to the need for stronger and more
resilient hospitals. 9or e8ample" in %**:" the Northridge earth3uake near &os Angeles" (alifornia"
affected eleven hospitals which either suffered e8tensive structural damage or were unusable after
the earth3uake. 'any of them had to transfer out their patients.
As a result" a new hospital was built in #$$; < )he .onald .eagan =(&A 'edical
(enter. It has steel beams weighing #$>#, tons each" providing the framework. )he steel columns
surrounding these beams weigh more than *$$ pounds per foot. -=(&A 2ept of 'ed. #$%$/ It
can withstand a ;.$ .ichter 'agnitude earth3uake with no significant structural failures. It can
also withstand winds of ?$ miles per hour and driving rain. 'ost importantly" it can remain fully
operational" independent of outside resources" for ?# hours following a ma@or natural disaster.
(loser to home" Intermountain ealth (are" a leading organi7ation in health care"
especially in =tah" has gone to great lengths to make sure their health care facilities are ready for
any disaster.
ere is a picture of the Intermountain 'edical (enter" built in #$$? -after four years of
construction" following over %$ years of planning/ showing the ?,$ tons of steel rebar <
e3uivalent in si7e to about :$$ homes. -I( )oday" #$$:/.
Intermountain 'edical (enter is one of the safest hospitals in the =nited !tates. In the
event of an earth3uake" fire" or any disaster" they are prepared. )his includes their structure" their
grounds around the hospital" and the technology inside.
!ome e8amples of why the building is so safe areA
All pipes" wiring" and ceilings are braced
)he glass is shatterproof
)here are *;$ steel buckling>restraint braced frames
)hey have an automatic building control system
Another Intermountain ealth (are facility" built in !eptember #$%#" is the !upply (hain
(enter. )hey carry all of I('s medical supplies.
It is centrally located so that in case of a local emergency the center will be able to 3uickly
transfer supplies to the all of the needed medical facilities. It is also built to withstand an
Also in #$%#" the Intermountain (enter for 2isaster 4reparedness officially opened. It is
located in the &.2.!. ospital. )his center is e3uipped with training classrooms" seventeen
patient rooms" disaster simulators" and emergency supplies.
Intermountain ealth (are has mandatory disaster preparedness training for all its
employees. According to 2eborah . Bim" A4.N and I(24 -Intermountain Center for Disaster
Preparedness) 4rogram 'anager" trainees can e8perience the simulations in real hospital rooms
with real hospital e3uipment. -Bim" #$%:/
It is sad that it often takes a tragedy for many safety precautions to be put in place but the
trend for safety and preparedness is growing and that is a good thing. Cspecially here in =tah"
where" as !teve 2ibble" director of facility development and construction at Intermountain
ealthcare puts it" 0'ost buildings are designed so that in the event of a disaster you could get
out alive. Intermountain 'edical (enter was designed so our patients can remain safe and our
employees can keep working safely.1 )hat is a goal everyone should strive for.
5arwood" 4. -#$%$" 6ctober %:/. ealth Action in (risis. .etrieved from
I( )oday -#$$:/.
Bim" 2. personal communication" Duly ;" #$%:.
.oney" B. -#$%#" November #/. Becker's ospital .eview.
=(&A 2ept of 'edicine -#$%$/.