South Florida Hospital News
Sunday May 24, 2020
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June 2014 - Volume 10 - Issue 12

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Hurricane Preparedness: The Season Is Here!

As we enter the 2014 Hurricane Season after several years of no storms hitting the coasts of Florida, there is a tendency to become complacent about our buildings' emergency preparedness. The tornadoes in the U.S. Midwest and the highest levels of flooding in years, demonstrates the capability of nature; and is our wake up call to remain vigilant for potential emergencies.
 
Emergency preparedness for medical institutions comes in two forms: the operational and the physical. Leaving the operational planning to the administrators, there is still much work to do to protect our medical facilities.
 
Over the years, our lessons learned from storms before have demonstrated deficiencies in window installation, significant water penetration, numerous unprotected openings, unprotected equipment, unprotected tank farms and chillers, and even walls incapable of protection from high velocity missile impact (HVMI).
 
Our experience with stud-framed exterior building walls has demonstrated that small, but long term leaks lead to rust and the structural degradation of walls. Although perfectly appropriate under the codes for which they were designed, fresh coats of paint and new caulking do not repair the structural deficiencies and leave the building vulnerable to significant damage from average weather events.
 
Vulnerability in medical facilities includes details and systems unfamiliar to some contractors. There are parapet flashings, roofing, and design and construction considerations when trying to exceed the minimum requirements of the code. Typical details from manufacturers’ manuals require embellishments and a medical facility should want additional safety factors to be incorporated into the design. Hurricane design detailing becomes more "evidence based design" applied to the building envelope. It should also be understood that every building is different with different heights, sizes and shapes, and different materials of construction. Therefore, the same solution will not be consistent between one facility and another, nor will the construction details that protect it.
 
After Hurricane Wilma, many hospitals made great strides in protecting their facilities. Some buildings were hardened, energy plants upgraded and budgets prepared for the improvements to meet all the needs. Unfortunately, after several uneventful hurricane seasons and ever tightening budget constraints, many facilities have delayed or scrapped plans for additional hurricane hardening. Therefore, there are still medical facilities with partially hardened patient areas, exposed infrastructures, non impact, non shuttered windows and doors and non reinforced walls that remain vulnerable.
 
The work that commenced so diligently years ago needs to proceed again with a renewed sense of urgency. The current weather events around the country are our wake up call.
For more information, contact Charles A. Michelson, AIA, LEED AP, Principal, Saltz Michelson Architects, at (954) 266-2700 or cmichelson@saltzmichelson.com or visit www.saltzmichelson.com.
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