Emergency hospital evacuation as Hurricane Sandy hits New York

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 31 October 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7357
  1. Edward Davies
  1. 1BMJ, New York

More than 200 patients had to be evacuated from a major New York hospital on 29 October when two backup power generators failed as Hurricane Sandy hit New York City.

The patients, including 20 babies from the neonatal intensive care unit, were evacuated by a fleet of ambulances from all over the city, lined up outside New York University Tisch Hospital at the Langone Medical Centre.

Doctors and nurses evacuated the youngest and sickest first, several of them on battery powered respirators. Patients were still being transported to other nearby hospitals, including Sloan Kettering and Mount Sinai, early on Tuesday, by which time the whole hospital was cleared.

“It’s a challenging situation,” NYU Medical Dean Robert Grossman told CBS New York station WCBS-TV. “We drill all the time for this kind of thing. But this isn’t a drill. This is the real thing.”

CBS News medical correspondent Jonathan LaPook was one of few eyewitnesses at the scene and described the “extraordinary efforts of the response team.”

“Many patients were too sick to walk down the narrow staircase to the lobby,” he reported. “They were painstakingly carried on plastic sleds—one by one—by teams of four to five people from as high up as the 17th floor.

“I was told by a member of the NYU response team that water flooding over the FDR Drive had taken out not only the backup generator but the backup to the backup generator. The secondary backup device is on a low floor and was disabled by the flooding. The primary backup generator is on the roof but the pump that supplies fuel to that generator is on a lower floor and was flooded.”

In southern Brooklyn, Coney Island Hospital also saw its backup power systems fail on Monday, said the city’s Office of Emergency Management, but there were no evacuations. Critical patients had been evacuated on Friday during storm preparations and the 209 remaining patients would be re-evaluated in the morning, the office said.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7357