Other notable upgrades include:
- Refuges on each floor with reinforced walls and ceilings, where tiles and lights are secured as if in an earthquake zone, with heavy storm barriers that can be closed to secure the safe zones. Rods in the door hardware will penetrate into the cement above to hold against intense gusts. Elevators will reach the basement where widened corridors can safely hold staff and patients.
- A half-buried building to house emergency generators and diesel tanks, and a reinforced 450-foot tunnel that will provide a conduit for water, power, gas, and data communications lines. Hallways and stairwells will have battery-operated backup lights. Life-support systems such as ventilators and neonatal bassinets will have battery backup systems.
- Emergency grab bags strategically placed around the hospital and containing critical supplies such as flashlights, batteries, first aid kits, gloves, crowbars and even snow shovels to clear passageways clogged with rain-soaked debris.
- A storm-hardened pre-cast concrete exterior with a poured concrete roof that will hold tight in a gale, unlike the metal decking that blew off the old hospital, and a penthouse holding mechanical units that will be protected by heavy walls of water-proof boards.
Storm hardening is taking place at Mercy hospitals in Springfield, and Oklahoma City, and it's planned for other hospitals with the misfortune of being located along Tornado Alley.
Farnen says the storm-hardening will protect patients, visitors, and staff and will also ensure that Mercy Hospital Joplin will be the last light on for emergency services.
"There is an awful lot of stuff we learned and an awful lot of stuff we are doing and it will be interesting to see how well the facility performs when all of these elements come together and hold up together when they're all assembled," he says. "Saving patients lives is priority No. 1, but if we can keep the building intact that's great too."
John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.