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HPP Supports Coordination and Resource Deployment Following a Liquid Oxygen Spill

Los Angeles, CA
January 2019

On the morning of January 28, 2019, a pipe leading to a 2,000-gallon tank of liquid oxygen ruptured at Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital in Los Angeles County in California. The leaking oxygen froze when it mixed with the air, making it difficult to make immediate repairs. The Los Angeles County’s Disaster Resource Center (DRC) program, which is funded through the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP), was ready to respond with deployable back-up resources.

Liquid oxygen leaks can be very hazardous and endanger all operations at a hospital: its low temperature can cause serious burns to human tissue, and large quantities of oxygen pose a fire risk. Hospitals use oxygen for a variety of procedures and the oxygen is typically stored as liquid in special containers to maintain low temperature. When the rupture first happened, Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital reached out to vendors to acquire a backup oxygen supply, but nothing was available statewide.

Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital, as a member of the Cedars-Sinai health system, participates in Los Angeles County’s DRC program, which is funded through the HPP to enhance surge capacity by fostering relationships and developing regional plans and procedures. The DRC program consists of 13 hospitals, including Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and one community clinic association. The DRCs and their approximately 66 active umbrella hospitals and health care coalition partners meet regularly and coordinate with each other to stockpile supplies that can be deployed throughout the region in the event of an emergency.

In 2013, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center used HPP funds to acquire a government surplus trailer from a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital and refurbish it into a liquid oxygen trailer. This oxygen trailer was listed as a deployable resource for the DRC program, which meant it was formally available for use by the community. After the tank of liquid oxygen ruptured at Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital, the DRC program provided a formal mechanism through which the hospital could request the equipment from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and it helped to coordinate logistics.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center responded quickly to the request, and coordinated vendor support, permitting, and delivery of the tank to Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital by the following morning. Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital connected the oxygen trailer, and it served as a back-up tank through the entirety of the repair process. This quick coordination and resource deployment helped Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital avoid transferring the approximately 70 patients that required oxygen or evacuating the hospital on a larger-scale.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center proactively assessed the needs of the community and built a solution that could be leveraged and deployed.

"Nobody else in the region has an oxygen trailer like this that can be deployed in emergencies," said Ryan Tuchmayer, MPH, director of Emergency Management at Cedars-Sinai. "We're grateful for the support from the Hospital Preparedness Program that helped us acquire this unique resource that we can use ourselves or to help others.”