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U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center prototypes makeshift hospital rooms

Published April 8, 2020
ERDC’s Directorate of Public Works staff work to build two types of mock-up hospital rooms.

ERDC’s Directorate of Public Works staff work to build two types of mock-up hospital rooms.

Employees from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Directorate of Public Works hang a door on a makeshift hospital room, or Containerized Medical Solution, constructed of wood and a metal frame, March 31, 2020. The team has been tasked with building out designs developed by the USACE Hunstville District and assessing their feasibility. The team is working to examine converting a portable storage unit into a one-bed hospital room versus constructing a wooden and metal room from scratch for the emergency response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Employees from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Directorate of Public Works hang a door on a makeshift hospital room, or Containerized Medical Solution, constructed of wood and a metal frame, March 31, 2020. The team has been tasked with building out designs developed by the USACE Hunstville District and assessing their feasibility. The team is working to examine converting a portable storage unit into a one-bed hospital room versus constructing a wooden and metal room from scratch for the emergency response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

A prototype of a containerized hospital room.

A prototype of a containerized hospital room.

The Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite has made headlines for his plans to construct makeshift hospital rooms across the country as the Nation prepares for an onslaught of COVID-19 patients. Recently, Semonite called on the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg to ask for help in accomplishing that mission.

Within an hour of the initial phone call, the ERDC Directorate of Public Works staff had gathered and prepared to build two hospital room prototypes, known as Containerized Medical Solutions.

“(Semonite) said, ‘I want the power of ERDC — I’ve seen your DPW, and I know they can do it’,” said Col. Teresa Schlosser, ERDC commander. “The call went out, and DPW came running.”

ERDC DPW is made up of electricians, carpenters, welders and other trade workers who typically support research and ensure equipment and facilities on station operate smoothly. But for this project, the team is pooling together their expertise to convert a portable storage unit into a one-bed hospital room, as well as constructing a wooden and metal frame room.

“We’re looking at the feasibility, deciding which is the easiest and quickest to do,” said Mike Channell, director of the Installation Support Division. “We’re trying to come up with a one-bed occupancy room that they could put into an indoor facility, like a coliseum.”

The initial prototype designs were developed by the USACE Huntsville District, who then sent them on to ERDC for construction. For the storage unit prototype, the normal rollup door is being replaced with a glass door. The other option, a wooden 12x12 metal frame room, is constructed from non-combustible material. In both scenarios, multiple units could be arranged around a central nurses’ station. 

“We’re modifying it with clean surfaces on the inside, as well as air and electricity,” Channell said. “The expertise we have down here is non-surpassed.”

DPW also called on a locally-owned business to help with the prototype — local medical equipment supplier, Hometown Medical.

“The relationships we’ve built in the community really continue to help here, too,” Schlosser said. “We have a local medical supply company helping us get this done because of those relationships. That coming together in a disaster is particularly rewarding.”

“This project highlights a critical capability that ERDC has amongst our tradesmen,” Schlosser said. “The artisanship they have is amazing and doesn’t get enough credit.”


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