Safety

Hospitals in Oroville dam danger zone remained open, prepped for evacuation

Hospital Safety Insider, February 16, 2017

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Even as rainwater and severe erosion threatened the Oroville dam in northern California this week, prompting mandatory evacuations of nearly 200,000 people downstream, hospitals in the affected areas remained open.

Ancillary medical offices closed after authorities ordered evacuations Sunday night, but Oroville Hospital—located just a mile from the Feather River into which the dam’s damaged spillway feeds—opted instead to clear only its first floor and continue treating patients upstairs.

“Evacuation of acutely ill people is very serious, so it is generally better to shelter in place,” Oroville Hospital CEO Robert Wentz told The Sacramento Bee on Monday. “We feel the patients are very safe.”
Wentz, who noted that the facility sits on a hill above the low-lying areas at greatest risk, said the site was fully staffed and operating normally with 95 patients.

About 30 miles downstream in neighboring Yuba and Sutter counties, where evacuations were also ordered, patients and staff at Rideout Memorial Hospital in Marysville were similarly sheltering in place, keeping with an emergency plan drafted in collaboration with local and regional leaders.

“We are fully functional here,” Rideout CEO Gino Patrizio told the Bee’s Darrell Smith on Monday inside the hospital’s command center. “If we are afflicted with widespread flooding, our remarkable facility has the ability to evacuate vertically, which means we can move up one, two or more floors if necessary and continue to function as a hospital, as most of our infrastructure is located on the top rather than on the bottom.”

Local and state-level emergency managers were joined Monday by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which activated its Regional Response Coordination Center in Oakland.

Although the mandatory evacuation order was reduced Tuesday afternoon to a warning after the California Department of Water Resources managed to lower the reservoir’s level, the prospect of another evacuation order lingers. Forecasts show more rain is likely to fall Thursday and this weekend.



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