Background: The Third National Climate Assessment projects an increase in extreme precipitation events and sea level rise for the United States. This increases the risk of flooding in both coastal regions and inland areas. As a result, the integrity and operation of healthcare facilities (e.g. hospitals and nursing homes) may be compromised with significant public health consequences.
Objective: This project examines the risk of healthcare infrastructure from coastal and inland flooding for the continental US.
Methods: Flood hazard zone data were obtained from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Information on type, size and location of hospital infrastructure was obtained from there different sources: American Hospital Association (AHA), Homeland Security Infrastructure Program (HSIP), and Medicare. Additionally, we examined nursing home data and locations from HSIP and Medicare. These datasets were brought into a Geographic Information System (GIS) to identify hospitals that were within a FEMA designated flood hazard zone (i.e. 100 year or 500 year floodplain), implying a greater risk during flooding events.
Results: Using a GIS spatial intersection approach, a total of 318 hospitals or 6.4% were within a flood hazard zone, which represents 52,587 beds at greater risk to flooding. Using the same GIS approach, a total of 4,403 nursing homes, or 10.8% were within a flood hazard zone, which represents 162,114 beds at greater risk to flooding.
Implication: Climate change is expected to increase the likelihood of extreme flooding events in the near future. Although most hospitals are not at an immediate risk to flooding, over 6% of hospitals and 10% of nursing homes in the continental US were within a flood hazard zone and may need to undertake measures to become more resilient to projected effects of climate change.