Yakima Officials Eye State Fair Park Buildings for Possible Medical Care in Case of Disaster

From the Yakima Herald

Yakima Health District officials are exploring the possibility of using State Fair Park as a medical care facility during a disaster.

The district is seeking proposals for a feasibility study of installing generators at the Yakima Valley SunDome, Pioneer Hall and the Deccio and Modern Living buildings, which would allow the facilities to be used as places to care for nonemergency patients if needed.

“The circumstances surrounding Rattlesnake Ridge show why planning is necessary,” said Health District Executive Director Andre Fresco, referring to the slow-moving landslide on the ridge near Union Gap.

 Fresco said that if feasible, the fairgrounds would be used as a place to take care of the nonurgent health needs of people displaced in a major disaster, such as flooding or an earthquake. The Health District is working with the Yakima County Commission, the county’s emergency management officials, the city of Yakima and the state Department of Health’s Disaster Preparedness Division on the proposal, he said.

The fair park is ideally located to serve as a place for nonemergency medical care in Central Washington in the event of a disaster, Fresco said.

Having generators is a prerequisite to being able to use the site as a backup medical facility, as planners would need to be able to provide heat and power in the event of a blackout, Fresco said.

The study is preliminary and will look at whether it is possible to outfit the buildings — some of which date back to before World War II — for emergency medical use, and how many generators would be needed to power the complex in an emergency.

It would not be the first time the fairgrounds was pressed into service in a time of emergency. During World War II, the fairgrounds housed a training school for military pilots and a factory for building Army trucks for use in the Pacific Theater.

 Greg Stewart, State Fair Park’s president and general manager, said fairgrounds in other parts of the country have been used as emergency shelters for people and livestock during wildfires and other disasters and that he welcomes the study.

“The fairground has been the salvation of many communities,” Stewart said.