Primary Care: Enhancing Health Care Resilience for a Changing Climate (HHS)

Primary Care: Enhancing Health Care Resilience for a Changing Climate, from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS), assesses the current climate and weather related risks for health care infrastructure, and proposes some best practices for building resilience to climate change. The HHS climate resilience guide is intended to address a wide range of health care facility vulnerabilities. It spans risks related to buildings, utilities and infrastructure, including IT infrastructure, supply chain issues, the needs of staff, and the role of the healthcare facility in the broader community. It is intended to be helpful to a broad spectrum of facilities from complex university hospitals to outpatient service providers and nursing facilities.

As part of the President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, HHS created the Sustainable and Climate Resilient Health Care Facilities Initiative to develop tools and information to help health care facilities prepare for the impacts of climate change and increase their resilience. As part of this Initiative, the Administration released this best practices guide for health care providers, design professionals, policymakers, and others to promote continuity of care before, during, and after extreme weather events. 

Hazard vulnerabilities addressed in the Guide and Toolkit include:

  • Planning (service locations, stormwater, site and transportation access issues)
  • Structural (fixed structural elements, such as roofs and walls)
  • Nonstructural (utilities, electro-mechanical systems, communications systems)
  • Organizational (supply chain and staff accommodation)

The report describes the concept of “passive survivability” in which buildings should be designed to survive loss of essential services such as electricity, water, and sewage management after a natural disaster, utility outage, or terrorist attack (Wilson, 2006) in order to safely accommodate people awaiting evacuation or the restoration of utility services.

On-site renewable energy, daylight, potable water storage and passive ventilation are examples of strategies that extend the ability to inhabit buildings in the event of major ongoing utility disruptions. Hospitals that incorporate renewable power on-site, for example, have a third option to operate critical ventilation systems when grid infrastructure is unavailable and backup generators fail.

The guide also illustrates resiliency principles and practices for health care settings in a five-element framework, adapted and modified from a broader UN framework for community resilience (UNISDR, 2012). The goal of this framework is to facilitate the improvement of resilience in health care institutions for today and tomorrow. Each of these elements is described in detail, with case study examples provided to illustrate applications.  




Publication Date: December 15, 2014

Related Organizations:

  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Best practice
  • Case study
  • Planning guides


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