In the Aftermath of Sandy, New York City Strives to Strengthen Its Health-care Facilities and Storm Procedures

Recommended Actions

Beyond the ongoing recovery efforts of these institutions, volunteer-led efforts by the facilities planning, design and construction industry produced extensive reports after the storm that identified ways in which risk to the built environment could be reduced (see “Learning from Sandy,” page 3). These reports—authored by New York City’s Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, organized by the mayor’s office; Urban Green Council Building Resiliency Task Force; New York Chapter of The American Institute of Architects; and The New York Building Congress—also outlined best practices and methods by which facilities can become more resilient and recover more swiftly from severe weather events.

The following priority actions to reduce risk, increase resiliency and improve disaster response are common to all these reports:

Vulnerability Assessment // Critical facility owners should undertake a disaster vulnerability assessment to determine the specific impacts their facilities might face. Coastal storms differ from other extreme weather disasters, such as sustained heat waves, tornadoes, ice storms, blizzards and the like, and all possible eventualities should be considered. The AIANY Post Sandy Report includes a matrix of anticipated risks to major building systems and recommendations to strengthen systems in new and existing buildings.

Creating an Action Plan // The next step is to develop and implement a plan to reduce vulnerabilities. A cost-benefit analysis is needed to assess how limited resources should be applied.

Operational Planning // Keeping a facility functioning properly during weather events takes advance planning, as does returning it to full operation as quickly as possible. Maintaining essential safety for occupants and the community is the baseline.

Maintaining the Supply Chain // Facilities should assess the vulnerabilities of their normal supply chains and undertake scenario planning for potential disruptions. Advance stockpiling of critical supplies and the identification of alternative supply sources may be needed.

The Urban Green Council Building Resiliency Task Force Report has been commissioned by the City Council to specifically recommend regulatory and code changes that would address weaknesses and increase resiliency.

The risk to our critical facilities and the communities they serve from extreme weather events is rising. The resiliency and sustainability of our cities and communities depends on the strength of the institutions we rely on and their ability to respond to and survive such disasters. We can all benefit and learn from the experience and response of New York City’s hospitals most impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

Learning from Sandy

AIA New York Post Sandy Initiative Report: Building Better, Building Smarter: Opportunities for Design and Development

PlaNYC/NYC Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency Report: A Stronger, More Resilient New York

NYC Department of City Planning Report: Coastal Climate Resilience, Designing for Flood Risk

NYC Department of City Planning Report: Urban Waterfront Adaptive Strategies

New York Building Congress Report: Risk & Resiliency after Sandy

Urban Green Council, USGBC New York Chapter Report: Building Resiliency Task Force

Watch a Video

After Sandy: Recovery and Resiliency at NYC’s Hospitals
Presentation to the AIA New York Chapter by Lance Jay Brown, FAIA 2014 AIANY president; Jason Harper, AIA, AIANY Health Facilities Committee co-chair; Nancy Victor, New York Society for Health Planning; Dan Zarrilli, P.E., director of resiliency, City of New York, Office of the Mayor; Paul Schwabacher, P.E., senior vice president, Facilities Management, NYU Langone; Michael Rawlings, associate executive director, Facilities Management, Bellevue Hospital Center; Daniel P. Collins, CEM, CHFM, CHSP, senior facilities director, Coney Island Hospital; Ray Skorupa, AIA, MPR International, co-chair, AIANY Post-Sandy Initiative, Critical and Commercial Buildings Working Group; Robin Guenther, FAIA, LEED AP, Perkins+Will, co-chair, Critical Buildings Committee, Urban Green-Building Resiliency Task Force

Additional Reading

1. “Billion-Dollar Weather/Climate Disasters”, National Climatic Data Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2013
2. Testimony of Thomas A. Farley, MD, MPH, Commissioner New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, before the New York City Council concerning Emergency Preparedness and the Response at the City’s Healthcare Facilities, Jan. 24, 2013, New York City Council Chambers
3. At Bellevue, a Desperate Fight to Ensure the Patients’ Safety, New York Times, Nov. 1, 2012, Anemona Hartocollis and Nina Bernstein
4. NYU Hospital’s Backup System Undone by Key Part in Flooded Basement, Pro Publica, Nov. 1, 2012, Sheri Fink
5. Why Do Hospital Generators Keep Failing?, Pro Publica, Oct. 31, 2012, Charles Ornstein
6. In Hurricane’s Wake, Decisions Not to Evacuate Hospitals Raise Questions, Pro Publica, Nov. 1, 2012, Sheri Fink

About the Author

Jason Harper, AIA, LEED AP
Jason Harper, AIA, LEED AP, is associate principal/senior medical planner for Perkins + Will New York. Harper helped lead the response and efforts to increase the resiliency of New York’s hospitals and health-care facilities after Hurricane Sandy.

Be the first to comment on "In the Aftermath of Sandy, New York City Strives to Strengthen Its Health-care Facilities and Storm Procedures"

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: