On November 12, 2008 at approximately 9:30 a.m. our hospital was notified by the City of Fort Bragg of an emergency situation that was occurring in our city. A large truck had sunken into a city street and had ruptured a major water main. Water was escaping from the water lines at a very high speed and it was uncontrolled.
The immediate problem for our hospital was not a loss of water flow to the hospital, but we did experience a dramatic drop in water pressure. This caused some key equipment in our hospital to become non functional, including our x-ray film processor and a sterilizer in our surgery department. And, of course it also caused an immediate problem in that our toilets would not flush.
It did not help matters that on this day we had a “full house” which meant that there was a great need for our toilets to work. Our emergency response team responded quickly. Gus Killion, our Chief Engineer sought out alternative sources of water (e.g. water trucks) and was in constant communication with the City. Linda Dutcher, our Director of Support Services immediately ordered bottled water from a local market (Harvest Market) and “porta potties” to be delivered to key locations outside public and staff entrances and exits. Roni McDermott did a great job as Incident Commander during the day.
And our staff was phenomenal. The housekeeping department delivered buckets of water from an outside hose, for flushing purposes (this process had been approved by the State Department of Health) and we prepared for the worst possible scenario, which would have been transferring patients out of our facility to other hospitals. Ukiah Valley Medical Center notified us that they had the bed capacity to accept all of our patients if it turned out that they needed to be sent out.
Fortunately, by 4:30 p.m. the City of Fort Bragg was able to control the water main break and water pressure was restored. My hat is off to the City of Fort Bragg, to our wonderful staff and to the staff of Ukiah Valley Medical Center. It was a tremendous team effort.