Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Surviving an EF5: More Hospitals Incorporating Tornado Prevention into Buildings in Oklahoma

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Surviving an EF5: More Hospitals Incorporating Tornado Prevention into Buildings in Oklahoma

Article excerpt

After Monday's tornado ravaged the Moore Medical Center, patients were transferred to University of Oklahoma Medical Center facilities. As severe weather becomes more frequent and more destructive, some clinics and hospitals are constructing their buildings with tornado forces in mind.

It's too soon to know whether the Moore Medical Center will rebuild, wrote spokeswoman Kelly Wells, in an email. Insurance companies have to assess the damage and determine if the building is structurally sound. But the Bethany Children's Center made changes to its hospitals after a close call in 2009. A tornado ripped through nearby Piedmont and missed the inpatient children's rehabilitation hospital by a mile.

Heidi Russell, vice president of communications and development, said the staff wheeled all 100 children into shower rooms for protection, but it didn't seem like enough.

"Our kids are so fragile and they have so much stuff with them; many are on ventilators or have pulse oximetry machines," Russell said. "We knew we had to have an area to provide the most safety for them, and to give their parents peace of mind."

So the nonprofit hospital raised $4 million from private donors to build a 3,100-square-foot safe room. Lori Boyd, the project manager, said she was looking at a business model that would allow them to build a shelter and use the space more than twice a year for drills. Coincidentally, the staff needed more room to operate its outpatient clinic, so the adjoined facility serves a dual function. When it's not used to shelter from storms, it generates revenue as a clinic.

Within 25 minutes, staff members can move about 100 children in wheelchairs and six in beds into the safe room. If the power goes out, there is electricity from a generator and portable oxygen for the children. Should the rest of the 100,000-square-foot hospital be demolished, the children and staff could seek shelter in the safe room for eight to 10 hours before they would need to be transferred to another facility.

There is no such thing as a tornado-proof building, said Ryan Bader, regional director of planning, design and construction for Mercy, but there are ways to reinforce a hospital so patients are protected from storm hazards. …

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