Safety

Emergency preparedness and utility infrastructure in healthcare

Healthcare Life Safety Compliance, July 3, 2021

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by James D. Ferris, PE, and Aaron Johnson, PE, LEED AP BD+C

As the COVID-19 vaccines roll out across the country and around the world, healthcare organizations can now pivot from frontline surge preparation and focus on futureproofing their facilities. While hospitals successfully implemented emergency facility upgrades and stopgap measures to meet pressing pandemic demands, now is the perfect time for healthcare leaders to take a more comprehensive approach to their utility infrastructure capacity and capabilities. No greater lesson can be provided than the freeze that ran through Texas, causing massive power outages and questions about the adequacy of existing infrastructure. These events can come unexpectedly, causing cascading failures, and they really don’t care that we already have our hands full. Here are key challenges and potential solutions that can help health systems prepare for and weather the next crisis.

Challenges

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a growing recognition that healthcare utility systems were vulnerable to many challenges that could impact emergency preparedness, including geography, facility limitations, and finances.

  • Geographical challenges

Utility infrastructure design needs to be addressed on a location-by-location basis as emergency power preparedness can differ dramatically from region to region. Hospitals located in areas where natural and weather-related disasters are more likely, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, or earthquakes, need to emphasize having a robust utility infrastructure to handle these events. Facilities in these areas should be prepared to operate for at least five days without external deliveries, power, water, and fuel to ensure that operation and patient care can be maintained to current standards even during an emergency.

This is an excerpt from a member only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login or subscribe to Healthcare Life Safety Compliance.

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