November 1, 2016

How NYU Langone Medical Center is 'super-stormproofing'

Daily Briefing

    In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, New York City-area hospitals are taking decisive measures to stormproof their facilities, Josh Barbanel reports for the Wall Street Journal.

    Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on hospitals across New York City. In total, eight hospitals were impacted by the storm, Barbanel reports. One, Long Beach Medical Center, never reopened after the storm.

    At NYU Langone Medical Center, basements filled with water and the power cut out. With no electricity, the hospital was forced to evacuate more than 300 patients via the stairs. Some patient wards didn't reopen for two months.

    NYC health chief: There was 'no safe option' for hospitals during Sandy

    It was a bruising experience for NYU Langone, but with the help of $1.45 billion in federal aid, the hospital is making sure it is well prepared for the next "superstorm" that comes its way.

    Some of the improvements include:

    • A 12-foot-high, electronically controlled steel storm barrier at the loading dock;
    • Large valves installed on drains and sewage lines to stop backflows of water from flooded streets;
    • Flood walls around the perimeter of the campus; and
    • Steel gates and doors to hold back floodwaters in critical locations.

    The hospital has also moved critical utilities and communication networks out of its basements.

    Robert Grossman, dean and CEO of NYU Langone, said the hospital was determined to bounce back from its harrowing Sandy experience. "We weren't going to be a victim," he said. "Here, the entire community came together."

    ProPublica: Why hospital generators sometimes fail

    The hospital even used the lull in patient care caused by the storm to charge ahead on previously scheduled construction projects that would have taken years to complete if workers had needed to work around patient care. For instance, the hospital completed its revamped ED—complete with raised flood barriers—in the 18 months after the storm.

    Vicki Match Suna, NYU Langone's SVP for real estate development, said, "We were very much focused on getting the hospital up and running, but we were able to do those things simultaneously."

    Efforts at other hospitals

    Several hospitals within NYC Health + Hospitals, the city's public hospital system, also were damaged by Sandy. They received $1.7 billion in federal assistance to make improvements and prepare for another storm.

    For instance, NYC Health + Hospitals' Bellevue Hospital hired a Dutch engineering firm with expertise in flood prevention to design flood protection systems for its perimeter. Michael Rawlings, Bellevue's CCO, said, "We are obviously much stronger and more resilient now" (Barbanel, Wall Street Journal, 10/28).

    Hurricanes and more: How can hospitals prepare for disasters?

    Hospitals must be prepared for myriad disasters that can stress health care systems to the breaking point and disrupt delivery of vital health care services.

    Advisory Board has compiled step-by-step procedures for various threats your facility may encounter—though we hope you'll never need to use them.

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