Items seen on display in our "Hospitals Underground" Exhibit were acquired in 2017 from a decommissioned 200-Bed Improvised Emergency Hospital located in the basement warehouse of the Mental Health Institute in Independence, Iowa.

This was a portion of 2500 hospital caches that were placed in key locations around the U.S. in 1954 to help accommodate for casualties following a nuclear strike. Enough supplies were stored to operate a complete hospital for up to 1 week until restock could be provided.

Among the items were 212 folding stretchers (200 to be used as hospital beds, 12 to be used in the triage ward.) 3600 tongue depressors, 120 reusable glass 5ml syringes, 400 wool blankets, 144 infant diapers, and much more.

The hospital included all its own laboratory, emergency surgery rooms, shock room, triage room, sterilization room, X-ray, records room, recovery room and more all stored in large wooden crates just waiting for that dark day to be opened.

While the use of the IEH would have been crucial in the event of an attack or mass casualty event within the United States and especially rural America, its history has been long forgotten and either landed in a landfill or remains in their damp basement locations.

As we look at the activities of the Office of Civil Defense and the Federal Civil Defense administration and see what kind of precautions and preparations were being made for a potential attack on the United States, perhaps we should take time to evaluate our own preparations within our regions and departments, “Could we handle a code black?” “Is our county capable of managing a mass casualty incident?” “What could we stock more of just to be prepared?”

Special Thanks to Charlie McCardle and the Independence Mental Health Institute.


Pictured: The Administrative Building of the Mental Health Institute and former State Hospital in Independence, Iowa


Pictured: Museum Curator Jonathon Weiss shortly after entering the warehouse containing the hospital supplies

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