BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The request came from the downstate office Friday for the United States Army Corps of Engineers to begin site evaluations as New York State begins to look for potential sites to convert to medical facilities.
USACE Buffalo District had boots on the ground that same afternoon.
“Speed is of the essence,” said Josh Feldmann, the Chief of Operations for Buffalo District. “We need to get these facilities in place and operational really before hit the peak of this.”
Here is how the process works: Erie County suggested some sites to the state that might work, then the state ultimately identifies a list of places it thinks might be suitable for alternative care facilities.
From there, it submits that list to FEMA to request assistance, and FEMA contacts USACE for its completed site evaluations before deciding where and what resources to dedicate to building out a site.
“Designs are turning around in two or three days. From there, it goes very quickly to construction. Everything is a matter of days; The idea is to get bed space in as quickly as we can and beat the peak.”
Designs for converted medical sites are already complete from the New York field office; they are just adapted for each new location.
Several things go into evaluating whether a site is suitable for conversation:
“Does it have reliable power? Does it have backup power? Any concerns with asbestos or lead paint? Is the HVAC suitable to support a hospital?”
Locations with the most infrastructure in place already are the easiest to quickly convert, said Feldmann.
“Water supply, sanitary/sewer, any other ancillary facilities…. food prep areas… anything you’d think that goes into a hospital.”
Once FEMA approves a site for conversion, construction outlook is a matter of weeks, not months.
“There are contractors on standby waiting to bid these projects, they’re quickly awarded, (and) we have contract vehicles in place that allow for a very quick award.”
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the county has looked at hotels, and nursing homes but only named the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center as a potential location. Governor Andrew Cuomo has also suggested college dormitories, 7 Eyewitness News was not able to confirm any had been evaluated locally.