A great example of the new emergency preparation paradigm is located in Walnut Creek, CA. A spectacular $25 million, 32,000-square-foot expansion and renovation of Kaiser Permanente hospital's emergency facility was completed several months ago. Featuring the latest in high-tech equipment, including decontamination units for a major chemical spill or bioterrorist attack, the new emergency room is noticeably different than any other such facility around. And, at least to a point, it also offers a view of the future of industrial emergency preparation.
An on-site lab drawing station and digital imaging are available, which allows for emergency room patients to remain in the ER. This minimizes the need to move possibly contaminated or contagious patients to other departments.
A total of 140 computer monitors are located throughout the ER, facilitating rapid access to medical records and test results. Traditional x-ray equipment has been replaced with Digital Radiography-DR Technology-that allows digital images to be viewed by any Kaiser facility in Northern California for consultation purposes.
While Kaiser's Walnut Creek facility is a case study in state-of-the-art emergency hospital design, many of the strategies employed can be transferred to the industrial sector. On-site plant emergency treatment facilities may be expected to handle an entirely new set of circumstances today-circumstances that include the potential for intentional damage and injury, as well as the use of biological and chemical agents heretofore not part of our thinking. Until now, we've addressed mostly accidental injuries in an open and direct manner. Today, we need to consider containment of the situation, due to the greater potential for the incident to still be in progress when we're brought into the picture. Bottom line: The rules have changed and we need to review and possibly change our approach to guarding the welfare of employees and others.