Hospitals and health centers have a vital role to play
in the event of a disaster. Considering this vital role, it is necessary that
the hospitals themselves are prepared to withstand the initial damaging effects
of a disastrous event. Therefore this study has targeted hospitals and health
centers in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) as an important subject of
emergency preparedness and thus promotes the “safe hospitals” concept in
disaster risk reduction. This study comes under the auspices of the
USAID-funded “Flagship project” that is reforming and developing the
Palestinian healthcare sector.
Given the oPt lack both
sufficient seismic awareness and a Palestinian Seismic Building Code, large
amounts of activities, research and assessments have found that major parts of
hospitals and health centers have high seismic vulnerability. This is of
particular importance given the region is subjected to strong or moderately
strong earthquakes. Therefore, considering the vital importance of keeping
medical buildings safe and fully functional during disasters, nonstructural and
structural damages should be avoided.
Several actions have
been initiated in order to carry out the study of the major hospitals (three
hospitals) and three health centers in the West Bank in the case of a strong or
moderately strong earthquake. The following investigations and activities have been
- A study to determine the seismic vulnerability
of structural and non structural elements of the investigated buildings. The
study showed that most of the common non-structural components have high
vulnerability, this includes partition
walls, ceilings; windows; office equipment; computers; inventory stored on
shelves; file cabinets; water tanks; generators; transformers; heating,
ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment; electrical equipment;
furnishings; lights etc.
- An assessment of safety conditions and a development
of evacuation plans, including a plan of the hospital and its surrounding
- Meetings and workshops have been organized with
decision makers, officials and engineers in the Ministry of Health (MoH).
All of the
assessed hospitals do not have the necessary safety requirements and need
additional external exits and entrances. The hospitals are unevenly distributed
and concentrated in certain areas of cities. This centralization of services
will result in adverse consequences if subjected to natural disasters or war.
In light of studies, the local challenges, and the economic and political
situation in oPt, several recommendations accompanied by clear action plans
have been advanced. These recommendations have focused on decreasing the
seismic vulnerability of non structural elements and increasing the coping
capacity of hospitals and health centers in the oPt. The conclusions of this
study are the same as the challenges that now face the development of the
Palestinian health sector, and involve the coupling of disaster risk reduction
and sustainable development in accordance with the International Strategy of
Disaster Risk Reduction (UN-ISDR), Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 and
Arab Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction 2011 – 2020.