Hospitals for Disaster was filmed at Bishop McNamara High School in Bethesda and begins with members of the Catholic clergy assisting civil defense personnel in the inspection of stored medical supplies. By 1964, over 2,000 PDHs were in storage, the vast majority of them along the East Coast. According to the narrator, their contents must be checked frequently, less they fall victim to moisture and humidity. The film highlights the sophisticated components of each hospital, which contained their own electricity through a large generator and their own water through a pump system and a massive rubber pool. During a preparedness drill, many businesses and citizens of Bethesda lend a hand in constructing the PDH. A local Gulf station provides trucks, labor, and fuel while area pharmacies pledge their expertise as well as additional supplies. As the clip below demonstrates, McNamara High's gymnasium is transformed into a triage ward and enthusiastic volunteers play the part of victims to test the readiness of the emergency medical community.
Hospitals for Disaster makes it clear that such makeshift medical centers would likely need to remain operative long after any immediate emergencies have passed. Many factors, including displaced populations, disrupted utilities, or possible fallout contamination could prevent traditional hospitals from treating patients. The film concludes by focusing on a young boy brought to McNamara High by his parents. While he needs lifesaving surgery, his ailment stems from acute appendicitis and not from any injury associated with the atomic bomb. Once properly diagnosed, he is operated on in clean conditions within the school and sent to a recovery ward (once the school's art room) where parent and child are happily reunited. This scenario, then, is the ultimate goal of a PDH, to shift from emergency trauma care to the treatment of conventional injuries not sustained during the initial disaster.