Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction


First Advisor

Dr. Terri R. Norton

Date of this Version

Spring 5-4-2018


Ampaw-Asiedu,L & Norton, T. (2018). A Case Study on the Design of Safe Spaces in Hospitals Vulnerable to Tornadoes in Central US.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Architectural Engineering, Under the Supervision of Professor Terri R. Norton. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2018

Copyright 2018 Lucy O. Ampaw-Asiedu


In the wake of recent disasters happening around the world such as the earthquake in Italy (January 2017); hurricanes in the United States (U.S.) (September 2016 and 2017); and compounding disasters in Haiti (September 2010 and 2016); to our best knowledge, never has the world seen the need to work on preemptive rather than reactionary measures to address this issue. Tornadoes are natural hazards that commonly occur in mid-western and central states of the U.S. Tornadoes, like all natural hazards, are very destructive and result in massive destruction to building structures, causing billions of dollars in damage and claim many lives. Healthcare facilities in general are vulnerable to disasters and the safety of patients, health workers as well as those who come in to seek shelter should be a priority. This study assessed disaster management measures instituted by hospitals. Thus, the study examined building structure vulnerabilities and the design of safe spaces in hospitals within central U.S. Objectives that guided the work involved identifying the impact of tornadoes in hospitals and assessing the structural design of safe spaces. St. John’s Regional Medical Center, now Mercy Hospital in Joplin, was used as a case study as a point of comparison pointing out structural performance from the 2011 event. The study revealed that incorporating construction materials outlined by FEMA and designing safe zones according to high-winds capacity is vital for reducing vulnerability to disasters in healthcare facilities. Findings led to a proposed structural design of an interior hallway/corridor safe space for healthcare facilities.

Advisor: Terri R. Norton