Can We Use BIM as a Tool During Crisis Situations?

Last week, Julie Brown, Director of Client Services, attended the New England Healthcare Engineers Society conference. The conference was great, but one session in particular made her pause to reflect. 

While at the NEHES conference last week I attended a session on the active shooter event that took place at the Hospital for Special Care in Hartford, CT on February 22, 2012. Don Cyr, VP of Facilities, described that evening’s events and shared the lessons learned, specifically those regarding interaction between hospital administration and the police department. He mentioned that it would have been extremely helpful if the police and responders had accurate plans or as-builts of the hospital at their disposal. This would have given them a better understanding of the layout of the building, and aided in sweeping and infiltrating the building.

It made me think, could BIM be used as yet another post occupancy tool in hospitals. Could the model, shared with police departments be used to by SWAT teams as they plan their response to active shooting cases, allowing them to virtually look inside the structure prior to entering a hostile environment and make a plan prior to entrance? Should all police department media rooms be supplied with the software and models of all the hospitals in their jurisdiction to aid them in the event of crisis situations?

The Annals of Emergency Medicine recently published a study stating that there were 154 hospital related shootings in the United States, between 2000 and 2011. Hospital shootings are rare events, but are extremely hard to predict, wreaking havoc on the ongoing operations at the hospital, with the possibility of patient evacuation and shut downs being close to impossible, I wonder if the “virtual” aspect of BIM can indeed be a tool in these all too real scenarios.

What are your thoughts?


  1. I have shared this thought on a much lesser scale in the past. Owners, in my opinion, would benefit a great a deal from having these As Built problems figured out in some capacity rather than having dozens, possibly hundreds of “current” plans due to the renovations, small project upgrades, new additions, etc.

    The reality to those of us in the VDC realm on the construction side, is that if owners aren’t asking for them, we’re not doing anything about it for free. The best we can do is present them with ideas to fix this issue.

    On to my initial thought about commenting on this post: Netflix has allowed me and my wife recently to watch the show 24 without interruption of weeks in between. Every time a crisis happens somewhere within the US, they seem to have a schematic of design of almost any given building. ‘Amazing’ to say the least.

    BUT, just in last night’s episode (wierd, right?) Kiefer was having to hold his breath, cut through a series of wall panels to get to a computer holding up their exhaust system to expel Nerve Gas. He got to said wall panel only to find safety bars preventing him from getting to save the day. They then find a “later” building upgrade on plans from a later date that would have told them, if they had a current plan at the ready.

    My point is that the idea has been around for awhile, even in T.V. shows, but still has not been rectified. Maybe we should take a cue from those trying to save our country and come up with the end all solution to this problem.

    Eric Widstrand
    Walsh Construction
    VDC Coordinator (Healthcare)

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