The hospital that bears the name of the most destructive Southern California earthquake in recent years has no excuse to be unprepared, said Susan Shamban, disaster coordinator for Northridge Hospital Medical Center.

"We did survive the Northridge Earthquake," Shamban said. "We were fortunate at that time that the hospital was built over the standards of that time. We didn't have injuries to patients or staff."

Nearly 19 years after the Jan. 17, 1994 Northridge Earthquake struck, killing 57 people, injuring 8,700 others and causing $20 billion in damage in and around the San Fernando Valley, questions continue to arise on hospital preparedness.

The Center for Health Care Reporting has found that more than half of all statewide hospitals failed to respond to a FEMA-approved survey on earthquake readiness, sent out in 2011.

The survey was conducted in part because of an earlier study that said Southern California hospitals would not survive a catastrophic major quake. Questions continue to arise, especially after such disasters as Hurricane Sandy wiped out hospitals in the Northeast.

The survey asked about water supply, heating and cooling systems, generators, and how many days a hospital could be self sufficient.

It's unclear if hospitals within the Los Angeles County Health System answered the survey, officials said.

A spokeswoman for Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar said she did not believe the hospital filled out the survey.

"I don't recall having received or submitted such a form," said Olive View spokeswoman Azar Kattan. "With regard to the general issue of preparedness in the event of any earthquake, in accordance with Joint Commission requirements, we regularly conduct and participate in emergency preparedness drills, our Facilities staff regularly test our emergency generator system, and annually assess our emergency operations plan."

In 1971, newly built structures at the county-run Olive View collapsed in the Sylmar Earthquake.

During the 2008 Sayre Fire in Sylmar, Olive View showed its vulnerability again when the power went out, and the hospital's backup generator failed, leaving the facility without electricity for more than three hours while the staff used flashlights to care for patients and evacuate 11 babies in the neonatal-intensive-care unit and five patients on ventilators.

A pump that transferred fuel to the generators stopped.

Later, the federal American Recovery and Investment Act provided funds to help fix the fire damage at Olive View.

Olive View's problems are an example of why Shamban of Northridge Hospital filled out the survey. The questions can be helpful in identifying deficiencies.

Shamban said she determined the hospital can function and be self sustained for four days.

"We have it calculated out for 96 hours," she said. "We have potable water. We have two swimming pools here. The pools are a good resource for 36,000 gallons of nondrinkable water. We have central fuel for 96 hours, four generators, MRE bars, trailers, cots, medsleds and over 175 evacuation devices."

Shamban said as tragic as they are, natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy can also offer opportunities to learn.

Mass shootings, water main breaks, chemical spills, fires, and storms all are possible in Los Angeles, she said. The Chatsworth Metrolink crash in 2008, for example, also placed the hospital on alert.

"You just have to keep preparing," she said. "The staff that is here need to take care of patients we already have," she said. "As long as you plan and organize you can be successful in the most difficult of times."


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