Emergency Response to Smoke Damage in Medical Facility

When a fire caused substantial smoke damage to the OSF Cardiovascular Institute going into Fourth of July weekend, we coordinated several extensive cleanings and replaced every last ceiling tile so that they could reopen within 11 days.

Well before an emergency happens, the groundwork must be laid to respond effectively.

It’s not just about anticipating needs. It’s about building trust day in and day out with our community of crew members, vendors, contractors and subcontractors.

Because the only way to effectively respond to a crisis is to do so in force with a group that shares a common mission.

From the start of POINTCORE, we’ve operated from a place of mutual respect, fostering meaningful connections with everyone we encounter.

That approach makes it possible to respond in an instant, just as we did when a fire zipped up the stairwell of a four-story medical facility, effectively shutting it down.

To swiftly make it operational again, we needed a substantial workforce and extensive materials – all during a holiday weekend.

The facility, OSF Cardiovascular Institute in Peoria, Ill., was getting ready to close ahead of July 4, 2020, when someone near the back door tossed a cigarette into mulch, which started the fire outside.

When the smoldering reached the stairwell, the polyiso foam insulation that ran all the way to the top floor got extremely hot, producing tons of smoke in its wake.

“Once the smoke finally cleared hours later, you couldn’t see a whole lot of damage, but if you wiped your hands on the countertops, they were just black, so the entire building had to be completely cleaned three times.”

Prior to the fire, we’d recently worked on the institute, originally built in 2003, through several renovation projects that included transforming the basement into a sleep lab and turning office space into a heart failure clinic.

Along with serving people with congestive heart failure, the institute also has an infusion center that serves cancer patients.

Although our partners at OSF HealthCare booked many patients at other locations for the following week, that couldn’t accommodate the full volume of hundreds of patients a day.

The revenue loss that they experienced every day was huge. But it was not about revenue. It was about patient safety and being able to treat those patients as quickly as possible.

To get the job done in record time, we coordinated with four contractors and about 15 subcontractors and vendors.

Everyone was committed to getting the institute back up and running. We wanted to ensure that patients could return to their routines of being cared for close to home.

It required a feat of large-scale coordination.

As soon as the fire department cleared the building, the work began:

  • Removing all of the ceiling tiles badly damaged by the smoke that had entered the return air plenum system.
  • Acquiring 85,000 sq. ft. of ceiling tiles from a network of vendors, including the manufacturer themselves, and then installing it.
  • Removing medical equipment so it could be properly disinfected.
  • Tearing down drywall to clean soot-covered CMU blocks and then replacing the drywall.
  • Cleaning out all of the ductwork and electrical components.
  • Deodorizing the entire building and completely wiping down every surface three times.
  • Securing and passing inspections on the state and local level.

On the Fourth of July alone, we pulled together a crew of 45 people comprised of plumbers, HVAC specialists, electricians, laborers and carpenters.

“People were walking around on stilts pulling tiles out, others brought dumpsters to the site, and an excavation contractor helped remove the tile and compress it, filling 14 dumpsters. Together, we pulled 60,000 sq. ft. of ceiling tile out in roughly seven hours.”

Within 11 days, the OSF Cardiovascular Institute was restored and spotless. With disruption minimized, OSF HealthCare was able to welcome patients back and continue delivering exceptional care.

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