South Florida Hospital News
Friday February 26, 2021

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June 2013 - Volume 9 - Issue 12


Protecting our Essential Service Facilities

Hurricane season is upon us again and the appropriate precautions and emergency plans will be dusted off and reevaluated. After a relatively safe South Florida hurricane season last year, the expense associated with upgrading medical facilities to current hurricane standards are considerations that administrators will wrestle with once again. In another year of limited resources, what can be spared to harden a facility? The ability to receive a FEMA grant and the lowering of insurance premiums can make this expenditure more palatable; but no doubt, the expense can be considerable.
There is a new code in effect, ASCE 10, which increases the facility strength requirements for medical buildings; now designated as essential service facilities. ASCE 10 is the new code which designates the hurricane wind speeds that apply to essential service facilities. Fortunately, while increasing the criteria, this national code recognizes the strength of South Florida codes already in place. Therefore, as the new formula is applied in its entirety, there is minimal structural impact to our local construction designs that would affect the new or recently renovated buildings in our communities.
Forecasts predict another active hurricane season. While no one enjoys the discussion of probability and statistics, chances are that a hurricane will hit the United States this year; and the odds indicate that Florida is a possible prime location for that to occur.
Our experience from the past several years has exposed 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).
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 clean 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.
There is work left to be done. As essential service buildings, our medical facilities have a documented standard of performance in a weather emergency. Therefore, it is imperative that the hardening work continues so that the South Florida Community can rest assured that medical facilities will remain functioning during and be available after a hurricane.
For more information, contact Charles A. Michelson, AIA, LEED AP, Principal, Saltz Michelson Architects, at (954) 266-2700 or or visit
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