Columbus Hospital Learns Lessons From 2008 Flood

By Brenda Showalter

COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) – Five years ago, Columbus Regional Hospital endured the most devastating event in its 90-year history.

Floodwaters from nearby Haw Creek rushed into the basement through a loading dock and quickly filled the lower level to the ceiling, destroying everything in its path. Next, water began creeping onto the first floor through air vents and electrical outlets.

Jim Bickel made a decision he never dreamed he would make as the hospital’s chief executive officer: He ordered the building’s evacuation.

Today, someone who did not know about the June 7, 2008, flood would be hard-pressed to realize anything had happened.

Renovation is complete, hundreds of workers and patients file in and out of the building every day, and the campus is neatly manicured with green lawns, flowers and rose bushes.

“To look back and see what has occurred since June 2008, it’s amazing,” Bickel told The Republic. “I don’t know another word to describe it.”

Memories of the flood bring back the overwhelming task that suddenly was swept to the forefront for hospital officials.

On the day of the flood, 157 patients and more than 300 physicians, nurses and other workers were evacuated.

Being a Saturday, the number of people in the building was fewer than had it been a weekday.

Patients, some in wheelchairs or on stretchers, were carried down as many as six flights of stairs.

Outside, helicopters, ambulances, school buses, fire trucks, police cars and military vehicles were waiting, and scores of volunteers were ready to assist.

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