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Weathering the Storm

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Asset Risk and Quality: Technical Services applies their unique climate expertise to safeguard Fraser Health’s facilities

Extreme weather events in 2021 inflicted significant damage on British Columbia, resulting in loss of life and leaving the province grappling with the devastating consequences. Within this chaos, the province’s health authorities faced a daunting challenge: ensuring the safety and well-being of patients, staff, and guests.

Fraser Health and its partners responded by embarking on a collaborative mission in 2022 to address extreme weather risks and bolster the resilience of its acute healthcare facilities. The task fell upon the Asset Risk and Quality: Technical Services (ARQTS) team, who undertook a comprehensive evaluation of acute care facility performance during the extreme weather events.

Through gap analysis and workshops for each site involving Facilities, Maintenance & Operations (FMO) site leadership, the team identified 13 critical asset categories that bore the brunt of the weather’s fury. These categories included building envelopes, heating and cooling systems, and standby power generators — essential components that were tested to their limits.

Amidst the top extreme weather risks, three emerged as particularly urgent concerns: extreme heat, extreme cold, and heavy precipitation. Scorching temperatures necessitate reliable cooling systems and temperature control measures within hospitals, while extreme cold demands robust heating and humidification infrastructure to guarantee uninterrupted operations and patient comfort. Furthermore, the risks of flooding, exacerbated by heavy precipitation, call for effective drainage systems and comprehensive flood management strategies.

When extreme weather strikes, the FMO team jumps into action, evaluating the performance of our facilities and identifying the areas that took the biggest hit” stresses Gavin Lovitt, Technical Asset Manager with ARQTS. “It’s like solving a puzzle where building envelopes, heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems, and power generators are the crucial pieces.”

The collaborative approach between the ARQTS team proved essential. FMO directors and managers, executive teams, and relevant departments within Fraser Health were presented with the data collected from the evaluation to foster a greater understanding of the situation to enable informed actions and prioritize certain capital upgrades.

“This was the first time our department conducted an organization-wide assessment of performance during extreme weather events,” says Gavin. “We are learning how important it is to have these data readily available and maintained.”

Beyond the data and risk assessments lie even more crucial discoveries: The stories shared by site FMO staff exemplify their unwavering commitment to delivering exceptional care even in the face of the most challenging circumstances.

Identifying vulnerabilities, monitoring risks, and planning essential upgrades are pivotal steps towards constructing a health-care system that can withstand and adapt to the ever-evolving challenges presented by climate change.