When disaster strikes, even the best laid plans may fall short when trusted infrastructural systems fail. Two leaders from organizations that suffered losses due to natural disasters share the measures they took to ensure a similar event would result in less damage.
After suffering losses of $16 million due to infrastructure damage and business interruption caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Forrest Health embarked on upgrading the building and planning for potential disasters at its flagship hospital, Forrest General, in Hattiesburg, Miss. The loss of water pressure due to generator failures in the city made operations difficult, so the hospital now has a deep well and 750,000-gallon water tower.
“With the pump capability and water tower, we should never have to face a Katrina-like water outage again,” says Andy Woodard, president and CEO of Forrest Health. In addition, the hospital installed two new generators and built a 7.5-megawatt generator plant, Woodard says. In the process of planning a new facility after a deadly 2011 tornado, officials at Mercy Hospital in Joplin, Mo. built their business continuity plan right into their building. The new hospital has a concrete roof and windows that can withstand 150-mph winds (250 in critical care units to allow patients to shelter in place instead of being moved, which could put them at risk). The hospital has three generators to keep the power on.
Taking these measures can help the hospital avoid an evacuation, keep patients and staff safe and ensure business can continue after a major event, according to Denise Dugan, the hospital’s safety officer.
The facility also implemented safety measures for patients and staff, Dugan says. When a storm warning comes, nurses in each unit check patient rooms to ensure every patient has a pair of shoes in case they need to be evacuated through debris. The hospital also has “grab bags” throughout the building with emergency supplies like suture kits and bandages.