Hospitals throughout California have been taking action to make sure they comply with Senate Bill 1953, which was passed in 1994 and establishes various levels of seismic performance regarding the survivability of acute care facilities (hospitals) during and after an earthquake. Deadlines included in the bill have changed several times, and having a knowledgeable and skilled team managing the upgrades is critical for hospitals needing to make upgrades.
The RAND Corporation estimated that 50 percent of California’s hospital buildings will be retrofitted, reconstructed or closed in response to this bill.
In addition to the building structure, the bill also applies to bracing and anchoring any components that may be affected during a seismic event, including mechanical, electrical, plumbing, life safety and equipment.
As per the bill, by 2030 all hospitals should be at seismic performance category five — in other words, capable of continued operation following an earthquake. The myriad considerations raised by this requirement include upgrades for safe evacuation for all people within the hospital facility regardless of their mobility, upgraded fire sprinkler systems and bracing and on-site water supplies, and so on.
In San Diego, Pacific Building Group is helping many of the region’s hospitals comply with these regulations. The company has worked on projects for University of California, San Diego Thornton Hospital, Scripps Green Hospital and Scripps Memorial Hospital. Sharp Memorial Hospital and Rady Children’s Hospital are also undergoing structural improvements to bring their facilities into compliance.
“Currently, we are working with Scripps Health and UCSD Medical Centers to help them meet structural and non-structural performance requirements of the bill,” said Hollis Gentry, director of medical services for Pacific Building Group. “In addition to the diverse upgrade requirements, the hospitals are continuing to improve their operational infrastructure including nurse call systems and laboratory and operating room facilities.”
The stakes are high. Missing the deadlines associated with SB 1953 can mean anything from building permit denial to risking fines and even closure.
Since the law was passed without an allocation of state or federal funds to help the hospitals comply, Pacific Building Group is also working closely with its hospital clients to identify cost savings and efficiency strategies.
“We’ve become a part of the team during the strategy and planning sessions to address the required costs and timelines while also adding value to enhance the facility for future use,” Gentry said. “Another critical component is understanding the Office of Statewide Health Planning & Development (OSHPD) system to ensure that construction drawings and budgets are processed and approved expediently.”
These projects are being completed within occupied and operational hospital facilities standards that require a high level of teamwork among the hospital executives, OSHPD, the architect, the contractor, and the daily hospital staff. By creating an environment in which all parties can offer valuable insight, the patient experience is not diminished while still accomplishing these critical improvements.