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#153566 - 10/19/03 11:17 AM Back to the Blackout
Roger Offline
Registered: 05/18/02
Posts: 1716
Loc: N.C.
For those who are involved in hospital and generator projects here are a couple of interesting items. NFPA 99 and 110

From The Plain Dealer


Area hospitals relied on emergency systems, staff in blackout


Roger Mezger
Plain Dealer Reporter

It's one thing when the lights at home blink off because of a power failure.

It's quite another if the operating room goes dark and breathing machines shut down.

Hospitals affected by last week's blackout in eight states and parts of Canada suddenly found themselves relying on emergency power systems to stay open - and to keep their most critically ill patients alive.

"You learn very quickly how dark a stairwell can be without emergency lighting," said Alan Channing, president of St. Vincent Charity Hospital.

The downtown hospital went black Thursday night when a faulty fuel line caused three emergency generators to shut down for about 30 minutes. During that time, dialysis machines and ventilators had to be hand-operated for a few patients, Channing said.

One emergency generator failed at the Cleveland Clinic, though power from others kept that hospital running. Overall, area hospitals appeared to have few emergency power problems.

It was a different story in New York, where the Daily News reported that about half the city's 58 hospitals had emergency generator problems.

"Everybody is blowing generators," the president of one hospital told the New York Times. "I'm shocked at what I'm seeing."

Most emergency power system failures can be attributed either to old equipment or to lax maintenance and testing of generators, said A. Dan Chisholm, a hospital consultant in Florida and publisher of Health Circuit News, an online newsletter devoted to electrical issues that hospitals face.

Although there are codes and standards for testing and maintaining emergency generators, Chisholm suspects that some cash-strapped hospitals have not paid adequate attention to their equipment.

Hospitals are supposed to run the diesel-powered generators for 30 minutes once a month, and for at least four hours at full power every three or four years. Monthly tests also are required on the switches that automatically start generators within 10 seconds after power fails.

"If all hospitals were to do that, I think you'd have a pretty healthy system," Chisholm said. "But my question is: Is it actually being done?"

Hospital officials say they adhere to the requirements of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, which inspects most hospitals every three years. But the Joint Commission's inspection teams, made up of specially trained doctors, nurses and hospital administrators, "are not qualified to determine the health of the electrical system," Chisholm said. "Those folks do not know infrastructure."

The survey teams check paperwork to see whether generators are being properly tested and maintained, Joint Commission spokesman Mark Forstneger said. Surveyors also can judge compliance by asking hospital workers whether they recall the last time the emergency power system was tested.

Chisholm said hospitals spent extra money on their emergency power systems in the late 1990s as part of their Y2K preparations. When Jan. 1, 2000, rolled around, everybody was ready and waiting for something to happen. This time it was different.

"This thing that happened the other day, this was unannounced," Chisholm said.

Even with regular testing, a hospital cannot be absolutely sure how well its emergency system will work until there is an extended power failure, said a Northeast Ohio consulting engineer who did not want to be named. "Things happen in hour 15 that don't happen in hour two," he said.

Most hospitals have several emergency generators, giving them a cushion in case one fails.

When one of the Clinic's generators went down, workers switched the load to two others for several hours while they made repairs, said Roland Newman, head of facilities operations.

"At no time did we have any situation that compromised patient care," he said.

During the 30 minutes that St. Vincent's emergency system was down, "the things that became obvious to us were how dependent everyone has become on electrically powered devices," Channing said.

Nurses used hand cranks to raise or lower electric beds stuck in one position. Staff members with flashlights stood sentry at each floor landing. Members of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, who run the hospital in partnership with University Hospitals Health System, returned from a religious retreat to deliver meals to patients and staff.

"I am extraordinarily proud of the caregivers at St. Vincent," Channing said. "Everybody pitched in."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 216-999-4446

To hear an interview with Dan Chisholm
go here


[This message has been edited by Roger (edited 10-19-2003).]
Building Codes & Related References
#153567 - 12/27/03 06:18 AM Re: Back to the Blackout
Trumpy Offline

Registered: 07/05/02
Posts: 8211
Loc: SI,New Zealand
Hey Roger,
Is there any Codes or Rules in the US, that state the frequency of tests for Generators, where these supply Essential Electrical systems?
Over here the Generators at the local Hospital are run every month for 2 hours?.
It just interests (or shocks)me that there were so many breakdowns with Generators mentioned in the above article.
I mean, this gear supplies a Medical Installation, why are these people waiting for an actual supply failure to find out the systems failings?.
Let's face it, these days if you're not young, you're old - Red Green grin
#153568 - 12/27/03 02:28 PM Re: Back to the Blackout
nesparky Offline
Registered: 06/21/01
Posts: 642
Loc: omaha,ne
It is usually the maintence budget that gets cut first when money is tight.
Last hospital I worked on had not actually started their generators for two years. They just pencil whipped the forms every month. It was quite a fiasco when they had to be run for a scheduled outage. None started up in less than 10 minutes and 3 of 4 crappped out in about 15 to 20 minutes.
Needless to say our planned outage was rescheduled. The cost of fixing the generators and cleaning the waxy fuel tanks made the hospital board very unhappy.
I just hope they learned from it.
#153569 - 12/27/03 05:35 PM Re: Back to the Blackout
mvpmaintman Offline
Registered: 09/15/03
Posts: 123
Loc: Manhattan, Kansas, USA
If most hospital maintenance admins are like my boss, they will ask why do we have to do it every month? I have to argue to get my boss to let me spin the gens and the back up air system and we are only a ware house. OSHA requires us to have light for two hours in the building in case of a power failure.

The last time we lost power, the AS400 computer lost power in under an hour because our system wasn't linked into the battery back up. So they spent $$$ on a new gen set just for the computer. But, they didnt get any enginerering on it and the harmonics destroy the computer power supplies everytime they run it, so they dont run that one either.

#153570 - 12/28/03 09:11 AM Re: Back to the Blackout
Roger Offline
Registered: 05/18/02
Posts: 1716
Loc: N.C.
Trumpy, yes there are testing standards, and these failure numbers are incomprehensible if testing requirements are followed.

The test requirements are in our NFPA 70, (aka National Electrical code) NFPA 99, (aka Health Care Facilities) NFPA 101, (aka Life Safety Code) NFPA 110, (aka Standard For Emergency and Standby Power Systems) as well as JCAHO,(Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations).

The base requirement is that the EPSS (Emergency Power Supply System) be tested 12 times annualy at periods not less than every 20 days and not more than 40 days for a duration of 30 minutes at not less than 30% of it's rated load, or manufactures recommended exhaust temperature.

If the facility is not an accredited facility, (JCAHO) the testing documentation is monitored by a state or local AHJ and in the case of the failure numbers, these agencies are not doing their jobs.

As pointed out by Nesparky, many hospitals are to tight to have a knowledgable Plant Operations Manager on the payroll, and this puts us in Mvpmaintmans world.

There are proposals to require a yearly 24 hour test in addition to the monthly tests, but I don't know where this stands right now.

#153571 - 02/05/04 08:23 AM Re: Back to the Blackout
slumlordworker Offline
Registered: 12/20/03
Posts: 84
Loc: south bend indiana
been there done that I worked as maintaince supervisor for a half way house. and a couple of years when we had an ice storm i got paged at 4 am to come in made it there by 425 am backup generator was running 515 am backup goes down with just a bang and lots of smoke the owner of the building was really cheap and stuck an allready used generator in there to save money and be allowed to open up. well we had to report this crisis to the authorities and it was a mess i never seen so many inspectors in mylife everything was inspected from the parking lot to each piece of toilet tissue needless to say some high ranking employees lost their jobs and the building was fined 30000 dollars. thankful the place closed down less than a year later

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