In event of a disaster, Intermountain Medical Center can keep providing care due to many new safety features.
Intermountain Medical Center is one of the most technically advanced hospitals in the nation. It's also one of the safest. In the event of an earthquake, a fire, or a disaster, Intermountain Medical Center is as prepared as a hospital can be - from the design of the building and grounds to the technology inside.
"The experts say we should expect a major earthquake every 2,000 years or so," says Steve Dibble, director of facility development and construction at Intermountain Healthcare. "We're about 2,300 years since the last one. So you could argue that we're due."
Intermountain isn't taking any chances
The hospital is designed to withstand an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale, which means that in the event of a 7.0 tremor, the building will sway, but work inside will proceed unimpeded.
Details about the hospital's seismic fitness and safety features:
- All the pipes are braced.
- The wiring is braced.
- The ceiling itself is braced thrice-over.
- The glass, which is a prominent part of the hospital's design, shouldn't break.
- Each window panel and all the glazing have special connection details that allow them to slide in their frames enough to prevent fracturing.
- Each building rests on a system of buckling-restraint braced frames that are designed to prevent movement and protect everyone and everything inside during an earthquake.
- There are about 980 braces throughout the campus, each unique and designed especially for the stresses it will bear at its specific location.
- The braces are steel encased in concrete.
- Several layers of redundancy should ensure uninterrupted gas and electricity until order is restored.
- The fire suppression system is interfaced with the automated building control system, so certain steps are automatically taken to ensure patient safety - doors automatically shut, for example, and stairways are pressurized to keep smoke out.
"The building should withstand a 7.0 quake without any significant damage," Steve says. "There might be a crack here or there, but the ceiling won't come down. The ceiling tiles won't come down, for that matter. And the building should function completely."
In fact, he says, extensive testing at the University of Utah of three full-size frames like the ones used at Intermountain Medical Center indicate that the frames could withstand about five earthquakes measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale without failing.
The hospital is designed to keep functioning during a disaster - when it's needed most
"Intermountain Medical Center is one of the few buildings in the country designed with this buckling restraint braced frame," Steve says. The Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building in downtown Salt Lake City is another.
Outside the hospital, Steve points to the helipad, located at street level. The location allows a direct access to the hospital's emergency and trauma services. In the event of a large-scale disaster, three or four helicopters could land on the helipad.
"Most buildings are designed so that in the event of a disaster you could get out alive," he says. "Intermountain Medical Center was designed so our patients can remain safe and our employees can keep working safely."