Volume 16, Issue 3 - May/June 2012

feature

Heed the Warning
Kansas Hospital Seeks to Protect Patients After Joplin Disaster
by Katie O'Mara

When the deadly EF-5 tornado ripped through the façade of St. John’s Hospital in Joplin, Mo., the staff and patients at Via Christi Hospital Pittsburg in Pittsburg, Kan. were watched and wondered. After reviewing the hospital’s current preparedness, new measures were put in place and additional storm protection explored. Via Christi Hospital Pittsburg decided to have window film installed on the hospital windows and after some research ended up with HanitaTek Window Films.

Protective Project
For Via Christi Hospital Pittsburg the main purpose of installing film was to protect those inside the hospital from flying shards of glass and debris.

“One of the issues that was brought forth by the officials and the stories from St. John’s Hospital involved injuries sustained from window glass broken during the tornado and blown into hospital rooms,” says Michael Hayslip, public relations director for Via Christi Hospital Pittsburg. “Less than three months after the Joplin tornado, Via Christi Hospital Pittsburg moved forward with a project that would [protect] 88 windows in the hospital by hiring [HanitaTek Window Films] to place a protective film over certain windows.”

HanitaTek contracted with Glen Yocca, CEO of U.S. Film Crew to be a project manager for the hospital. Included in the window film installation were windows in each of the wings of the five-story patient tower, the 12 rooms in the fifth floor intensive care unit and the six labor and delivery rooms in the third floor Women’s Center. A 12-mil SafetyZone clear film with the four-sided no-bar attachment system was installed. The entire installation was completed in approximately a week and required three installers. Carlson cautions that while film can help mitigate damages from debris and broken glass it is not guaranteed to protect those inside the windows from injury.

“Because there is no window film testing protocol for a simulated tornado threat, the architects and engineers had to make intelligent interpolations among existing test methods for hurricane and blast,” says Mark Carlson, business development manager for HanitaTek. “Security window film solutions are not some sort of anti-gravity device that will keep windows levitating when the building has been destroyed, but our industry’s solutions are a smart, right-sized answer to moderate tornado debris wind speeds and pressures.”

Unique Circumstances
Installation went by without interruption or issue. The hospital staff was able to view the installation in progress and HanitaTek answered questions and caused no interference with the hospital’s daily business and care.

“Installation went very well from a hospital and health care perspective. The employees from HanitaTek were extremely professional and efficient. They were also very well versed on explaining the installation process and how the film was effective for our needs,” says Hayslip. “They were kind and courteous to our hospital employees and always took time to explain the project to anyone who was curious about their work. The Via Christi Hospital admissions/registration department and nurse managers were able to block off certain rooms undergoing installation which caused no disruption to the hospital’s patient flow during the installation process.”

“We definitely ran into questions from the staff,” says Yocca. “The head of PR there had different news organizations come in and do interviews to show what they were doing to be proactive.”

“This is a very important question in everything we do—education. We had to be prepared to answer questions about both the protection level and (as you can imagine) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Hazard Communication Worker’s Right to Know (the familiar MSDS) requirements,” says Carlson. “Everyone representing HanitaTek is trained in advanced security solutions in preparation to answer any questions about the anticipated protection level in standard test methods.”

U.S. Film Crew worked carefully with the hospital staff to make sure that they were not in the way in the intensive care units (ICU).

“There were some challenges because we had limited access in the ICU units,” says Yocca. “There are obvious challenges when you’ve got patients who are in and out at any time. We worked with the hospital and scheduling to get through that.”

“Working in a hospital environment will always present unique challenges not as prevalent in other situations,” says Carlson. “For example, unlike an office space, the rooms don’t clear out at night so we can have unrestricted access. Therefore, we had to plan flexibility into our schedule and [hire] professional installers so that we can be ready to protect a room in ICU when the patient is moved into recovery or a private room.”

Future Film?
Overall, Via Christi Hospital Pittsburg has been pleased with the results of the window film installation.

“The people of Pittsburg and surrounding communities realized Via Christi Hospital Pittsburg was taking additional steps needed to keep people safe,” says Hayslip. “Then, on March 2, Pittsburg encountered severe weather of its own, though nothing in comparison to the Joplin tornado of last year. Parts of Pittsburg did incur substantial damage from straight line winds in excess of 100 miles an hour. Though the hospital did not see anything close to the damage other parts of town encountered, employees and patients who had seen past coverage of the … windows said they did feel safer the night the storm hit Pittsburg. We cannot control the weather in Southeast Kansas, but we can explore options that make our facility safer in the event of severe weather.”

Future plans for more window film remain a possibility at the hospital. Due to Via Christi’s continuing expansion and the benefits received from the initial window film installation the hospital still sees the value in further installation.

“Via Christi Hospital Pittsburg has two major construction projects in the works, a new [40,000 square foot] $18-million Surgical Services Center that breaks ground this summer, and plans for a medical office building to follow,” says Hayslip. “While no concrete plans have been decided … we see the benefit of the project and are considering future installation as our facilities plan grows in the future.”

Final Thoughts
As window film companies continue to sell the product and educate the public about its benefits Carlson offers some advice for dealers about bringing in a big project.

“In my experience, the most common frustration with window film dealers is the ever-increasing marketplace for ‘me-too’ solutions,” says Carlson. “You do all the hard work to get a product specified, but leave the door open for the other guy who did not create the opportunity to give the impression that he is just like you. Keep in mind as you begin offering solutions, you are starting to build the unique selling proposition with your film choice, the attachment system, your dynamic company and your understanding of the technology behind the solution.”

Katie O’Mara is the editor of Window Film magazine. She can be reached at komara@glass.com, follow her on Twitter at @windowfilmmag or on Facebook by searching for Window Film Magazine.


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