In 2001, when Tropical Storm Allison tore through Texas, dumping torrential rainfall on Houston and surrounding areas, Houston’s Texas Medical Center was hit especially hard.

The largest medical complex in the world, home to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, was decimated by the storm that dumped more than 3 feet of rain, flooding buildings throughout the complex. While MD Anderson itself was minimally affected primarily due to its location, Allison caused millions of dollars in damage to the medical center overall. 

When the storm cleared and the hospital was back to full capacity, hospital leaders immediately began planning to incorporate lessons learned during Allison into a resilient design to help the hospital withstand the next massive storm.

It paid off. When Hurricane Harvey — a significantly more powerful storm — hit in 2017, MD Anderson was better prepared.

“Immediately after Allison, we began upgrading our standards with strategies to help us become very hurricane-resistant,” says Tim Peglow, SASHE, associate vice president of patient care and prevention facilities at MD Anderson. “When they announced Harvey would hit in two to three days, we started preparing.”

Among other reforms, the hospital moved generators to higher floors, installed enormous watertight storm gates and windows with hurricane-force glass, created watertight compartments in some buildings and built a massive floodwall around the building. Overall, Peglow says that MD Anderson fared well during Harvey.

MD Anderson is among the growing number of hospitals that are factoring resiliency planning into their overall design strategy, according to the 2018 Hospital Construction Survey, conducted by the American Society for Healthcare Engineering’s Health Facilities Management magazine. ASHE is a professional membership group of the American Hospital Association.

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