Regional Medical Center
Springfield, Oregon is located in the Southern Willamette Valley, and has a total population of 59,403. In 1990, PeaceHealth, one of the largest healthcare providers in the Northwest, wanted to build a major facility in Springfield, called Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend. This hospital project was extremely important to the well-being and economy of the region. Once complete, Sacred Heart Medical Center would have approximately 4,000 full-time employees, making PeaceHealth the largest employer in the region, and the county’s sixth largest taxpayer.
PeaceHealth’s plans called for a $365 million facility on 181 acres. It would be one of the largest hospitals between Portland and San Francisco, serving as a Level II trauma center for an eight-county region. The square footage of the hospital equals the area of 23 football fields. Springfield’s Fire and Life Safety Department numbered approximately 110 fire personnel and officers, spread across 5 stations. Even with mutual aid agreements in place with surrounding jurisdictions, fire officials doubted their ability to defend the structure in the event of a major fire, due to its massive footprint.
The Springfield Fire and Life Safety Department asked PeaceHealth to install a firefighter air replenishment system (FARS) throughout the facility. This requirement was made by special mandate, not as part of the regular fire code, because of the size and complexity of the structure and the resources of the agency having jurisdiction. “It’s an example of smart development,” Springfield Fire Chief Dennis Murphy told the Eugene/Springfield Register-Guard. Murphy called FARS “a growth equalizer” that would allow his small department to dedicate the maximum number of firefighters to battle a fire inside the hospital. Murphy said without FARS, the city could have spent more than $1 million annually to maintain an additional fire crew to train and deal specifically with high-rise emergencies.
RescueAir designed and built a FARS system for this large, complex structure that met the needs of the Springfield Fire and Life Safety Department and gave fire officials the confidence to approve the project. According to the Register-Guard, the city would not have allowed PeaceHealth to proceed without FARS. The hospital was completed in 2008.