March 13, 2021 — On March 11, PeaceHealth Peace Harbor Medical Center, 400 Ninth St. in Florence, completed seismic upgrades to its Florence facility.
According to Chief Administrative Officer Jason Hawkins, patients and residents of this area can now receive treatment in a safer environment than they were able too prior to the completion of the reinforcement project.
“Our patients, caregivers and community can now rest assured that Peace Harbor is prepared for a high-magnitude, Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake,” Hawkins said. “Every floor and wall of this building is now fortified to the state’s stringent seismic standards to ensure the immediate safety of our patients and caregivers and the continuation of hospital operations.”
Coincidentally, the project at PHPH was completed March 11 — the 10th anniversary of the earthquake off the coast of Japan which led to the flooding and destruction of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The tsunami which destroyed the Fukushima complex killed more than 20,000 people.
One of the responses to the Japanese disaster was the recognition of the need for hospitals and first response agencies to be able to continue to support their communities even when confronted by major natural disasters.
“When Peace Harbor was built in 1989, there wasn’t a widespread understanding of the likelihood of a catastrophic earthquake and its potential consequences. The Japan quake served as a wake-up call to many vulnerable communities,” said Pat Kirby, Peace Harbor facilities manager. “The State of Oregon started to press the need for earthquake resilience, and money started becoming available through grants for various projects, including seismic upgrades. We saw the need to make sure that medical service would be available to our community in a Cascadia event.”
Peace Harbor was awarded a grant for $2.5 million for the project through the state’s Seismic Rehabilitation Grant Program, which targets both schools and first-responder buildings, including hospitals, 9-1-1 centers and fire and police stations. More than eight years ago, the hospital began working with the Oregon Department of Geology & Mineral Industries to develop evacuation and inundation zone maps, which allowed Peace Harbor to apply for the grant.
The construction component of the upgrade was done by Seattle-based contractor Lease Crutcher Lewis, which finished Peace Harbor’s year-long seismic upgrades on budget and on time. The project included retrofitting footings in 47 locations within the hospital and placing new wall anchors in more than 50 locations. The grant also covered upgrades to mechanical, plumbing and electric systems.
The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a 600-mile fault line just off the Pacific coastline, extending from northern California to British Columbia. Oregon has the potential for a 9.0+ magnitude earthquake and a resulting tsunami of up to 100 feet high.
Kirby noted that experts have determined that Peace Harbor lies outside the tsunami zone, even under a worst-case scenario.
Next, he said Peace Harbor will research options for setting up automated water-line shutoffs and backup generator start-ups through ShakeAlert, an earthquake early-warning system.
Coincidentally, the State of Oregon purposefully chose this week’s Japan earthquake anniversary date for the launch of ShakeAlert. The system can send alerts seconds ahead of shaking to area residents, as well as utilities, schools, hospitals and other critical service providers. For more information, visit www.shakealert.org.
For more information about PeaceHealth Peace Harbor, visit www.peacehealth.org.