Disaster-proof hospitals: Experts warn governments to prepare for climate change threats from fire to flood

From fire to flood, experts urge governments to disaster-proof hospitals against climate change

“Flames engulfing the sky, smoke filling the air, and the threat of destruction looming closer with each passing moment – this was the reality faced by David Matear as he evacuated the downtown Fort McMurray hospital during the largest medical evacuation in Canadian history. With chaos and uncertainty surrounding him, one thing became clear – Canada’s hospitals need to be better equipped to handle disasters of all kinds.

The Vulnerability of Canada’s Hospitals:

As Matear recalls the harrowing experience of the wildfire in 2016, it becomes evident that Canada’s health-care facilities are among the oldest public infrastructure in use, making them susceptible to extreme climate events. From fires and floods to heat waves and other natural disasters, hospitals are not immune to the impact of these emergencies.

According to Ryan Ness, director of adaptation research at the Canadian Climate Institute, the number of climate-related emergencies is expected to increase in the coming years, posing a significant threat to hospitals across the country. With a significant portion of Canada’s hospitals located in high-risk flood zones, it is crucial for health authorities and ministries to prioritize disaster-proofing life-saving infrastructure.

Preparing for the Future:

The need for proactive measures to safeguard hospitals against the growing threat of climate change is becoming more urgent. From relocating electrical systems to upgrading ventilation and cooling systems, there are various steps that can be taken to ensure hospitals are resilient in the face of adversity. While these solutions come with a cost, the consequences of inaction could be far more devastating.

Learning from Past Mistakes:

The aftermath of disasters like Superstorm Sandy in 2012 serve as a stark reminder of the importance of disaster preparedness. By incorporating disaster-proofing measures into hospital design and infrastructure, as seen in the case of the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, health-care facilities can mitigate the risks associated with climate-related emergencies.

Looking Ahead:

As Canada grapples with the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters, the time to act is now. By embracing transformative changes and prioritizing climate resilience, hospitals can better serve their communities and ensure the safety and well-being of patients and staff alike. As Matear aptly puts it, the lessons learned from past experiences should serve as a wake-up call for provinces to be better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

In conclusion, the need to fortify Canada’s hospitals against the impact of climate change has never been more pressing. By taking proactive steps to disaster-proof life-saving infrastructure, we can ensure that our health-care facilities are equipped to withstand the challenges of a changing climate. The time to act is now, for the safety and security of all who depend on these critical facilities.”



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