Wires dangle from a hole in the ceiling caused by water damage from a Mar. 9 flood on the 5th floor of the Clinical Center.
The Office of Research Facilities has waged a continuous battle against flooding in NIH’s 15 million square feet of facilities. Fourteen months ago, the Clinical Center suffered five floods within a 3-month period that damaged
the facility, displaced staff and disrupted patient scheduling.
During each of the floods, which came during the 2009 winter months, ORF conducted extensive analyses of the failed equipment and infrastructure. ORF has since adopted a preventive maintenance program that includes up to 27,000 points of inspection on 809 pieces of equipment. It also installed dams around air handlers and added automated alarms.
Over 100 leak detectors were installed as well as other protective devices. Physical equipment inspections are now conducted every 4 hours by ORF staff during off hours. During vulnerable conditions, such as extreme cold weather, monitoring and maintenance staff is doubled. No flooding has occurred due to equipment failure since February 2009.
The aging infrastructure, however, poses a different challenge. Infrastructure,
such as the abundant piping and wiring, is outdated and continues to age, causing occasional flooding. On Mar. 9, a fitting on piping in a Clinical Center lab located on 5N failed, resulting in a flood. ORF plans to replace aging infrastructure through new projects and intends to improve maintenance
on existing systems.