Hospital in tsunami zone

JARRED WILLIAMSON
Last updated 05:00 22/08/2014
evacuation map

DANGER ZONE: The colours over Middlemore Hospital indicate areas that might have to be evacuated in the event of a tsunami.

Middlemore
Jarred Williamson
EMERGENCY READY: Middlemore Central general manager Dot McKeen and operations manager Susan Robertson with some of the hospital’s information screens.

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One of Auckland's main hospitals lies within a tsunami evacuation zone but officials say they are prepared to deal with any disaster.

Half of Middlemore Hospital falls under a yellow evacuation zone, according to tsunami evacuation maps released earlier this year.

That means it could be under water if the unthinkable happens.

Middlemore Central general manager Dot McKeen said the hospital is constantly working on its emergency response plan.

"Any good plan should be written in pencil," she said.

"Big organisations can't always be 100 per cent prepared, there's always something to practise or train for."

McKeen said all services and departments have a plan in place for an emergency.

A report obtained under the Official Information Act shows a risk assessment was completed by Counties Manukau Health's engineering and facilities department in 2011. It outlines predicted water levels from a tsunami and the action needed to be taken.

The report said if such an event occurred during a spring high tide, a wave of 1.8 metres would put the hospital at risk.

Low lying areas and some buildings' power supplies and lift motors, located in the basements, could go under water.

McKeen said there is a low risk of a tsunami impacting Auckland. But she accepts the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake has seen many organisations update such plans.

"A lot of work has been done on this in the last few years since Middlemore Central came into existence."

McKeen said the hospital's layout means a large scale evacuation would not be necessary.

"Most of our buildings are now interconnected so we can move patients sideways to another block . . . so it doesn't matter too much if the power's out or the lifts don't work."

The hospital's emergency operations centre can be activated allowing access to incident updates. It provides logistical information and communication with emergency services.

Sections of the plan are tested throughout the year and involve working closely with emergency services as well as Auckland Airport.

"We try to have a test that has a large impact sometimes, but we can't always disrupt the entire hospital," she said.

The last one was in April this year and involved a scenario of a helicopter crashing into the hospital.

Eleven tsunamis have been recorded in the city's coastal areas since 1840 and the highest wave reached 2.9 metres.

READY TO GO

Middlemore Central is equipped with a range of equipment for use in case of an emergency, including:

■ Laptops charged and on standby

■ Charged mobile phones

■ Radio transmitters

■ A satellite phone

■ Six television screens to display key information.

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- Eastern Courier

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