Emergency Power at Children’s Hospital

By Kevin McKinney

Nemours Children’s Hospital installed and commissioned a new central power plant equipped with four 2,250 kW MTU Onsite Energy generator sets with paralleling switchgear at the new facility. The four generators are installed on the second floor of the hospital. Photo courtesy: MTU Onsite Energy

From its theme parks to its beaches, Orlando, Florida is well-known as a premier tourist destination. More people visit Orlando than any other city in the United States with a record 66 million visitors to the Central Florida city in 2015. But there’s a lesser-known gem in Central Florida whose visitors hail from more than 20 countries, three U.S. territories and 41 states.

Nemours Children’s Hospital is a non-profit children’s health system that started more than 70 years ago with the simple vision of Alfred I. DuPont to “improve the lives of children and to do whatever it takes to prevent and treat even the most disabling childhood conditions.” In October 2012, Nemours opened a 630,000-square-foot, $397-million state-of-the-art hospital in Orlando to support families in Florida and the Southeast United States in need of highly specialized medical care.

As one of the nation’s largest integrated pediatric health systems, Nemours is ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the nation in cancer, cardiology, gastroenterology, nephrology, orthopedics and pulmonology. The health system provides hospital- and clinic-based specialty care, primary care, prevention and health information services, as well as research and medical education programs throughout Florida and the Delaware Valley.

Powering Wellness

Most patients don’t consider the impact of power on the most basic of care, let alone what would happen if the grid fails. Because emergency backup generators are generally kept hidden and out of sight, the topic of emergency power supply has a limited audience. However, just a few seconds of an outage has a far-reaching ripple effect in a health care setting. When the power goes out, having a backup power system is vital for patient safety and for preventing loss of life.

The good news for hospitals, and patients, is that the majority of power outages in North America have been infrequent and short, but that is not always the case. During the last decade, the power grid has experienced major region-wide failure due to natural catastrophes and other events. Blackouts from coast-to-coast have left millions without power, crippling modes of transportation, cellular communications and water supplies. Mother Nature’s wrath has also been felt, most recently with life-threatening flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and throughout New York and New Jersey during Hurricane Sandy. There will always be an amount of uncertainty when it comes to utility outages and there are ways to reduce risk.

Health care facilities like Nemours are required by state, local and national electrical codes to have adequate emergency standby power systems that can be online within seconds of a utility outage to supply critical loads. Numerous organizations are involved in setting standards and overseeing patient safety in health care facilities. These groups include the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), the American Society of Healthcare Engineers (ASHE) and The Joint Commission (formerly known as JCAHO, The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations), which sets the core standard for emergency backup power at hospitals across the United States. Some states also have their own standards organization, including the Florida Department of Health, which requires that medical facilities, including ambulatory surgery offices, have backup power.

“Generator sets are vital to hospitals,” said Nelson Roque, director of facilities and construction at Nemours. “They keep critical systems such as resuscitation and life-saving machines online, but it’s not only those systems that depend on generator sets. Everything runs on electricity, and without it, we really couldn’t function as a hospital.”

MTU Onsite Energy’s generators offer an 85 percent load factor, which gives increased capacity by 15 percent over the industry standard. Photo courtesy: MTU Onsite Energy

Emergency standby power is vital for patients in operating rooms, obstetrical delivery rooms, nurseries and urgent care areas. It is also critical for blood, bone and tissue storage systems, medical air compressors and vacuum systems, as well as communication systems, elevators and egress lighting.

When incorporating emergency backup power into a health care facility, evaluating whether to add enough generating capacity to supply noncritical loads in addition to critical loads required for life-safety purposes is vital. Loads that are considered non-critical in short power outages-such as HVAC-often become critical when the focus is on preparing for an extended outage. For health care facilities, emergency standby power systems should supply the total peak load of the facility, not only for life safety, patient comfort and convenience, but also for business continuity.

Expecting the Unexpected

In the summers, the Sunshine State is clobbered with heat and humidity. Add in the threat of violent tropical storms and hurricanes and a hospital can easily be rendered powerless. Facilities must endure the heavy winds, flooding and catastrophic damage commonly associated with severe storm systems and generator sets must meet strict Florida building codes. Capability to withstand the elements, including Category 4 hurricanes, was non-negotiable for Roque and his staff.

Nemours was built to endure the heavy winds, flooding and catastrophic damage commonly associated with severe storm systems.

“Florida building code is very tough when it comes to generator requirements,” says Len Hernandez, manager, generator sales at Florida Detroit Diesel-Allison. “Enclosures have to be hurricane-rated. There are also high velocity hurricane zones where generator sets have special dome enclosures to withstand those high winds.”

Nemours, in partnership with Florida Detroit Diesel-Allison (FDDA) and TLC Engineers, engineering firm of record for the overall project, installed and commissioned a new central power plant equipped with four 2,250 kW MTU Onsite Energy generator sets with paralleling switchgear at the new facility to ensure that patient lives are not put at grave risk in the event of a power outage.

The four generators are installed on the second floor of the hospital to decrease potential for flood damage and ensure units can provide enough backup power to supply electricity for more than seven days. Another large factor for the hospital was the system’s capacity for expansion. MTU Onsite Energy’s generators offer an 85 percent load factor, which gives increased capacity by 15 percent over the industry standard. This flexibility is important to Nemours as they continue to grow and determine total future power capacity needs.

Since installation, the generator sets have proven to be capable of handling the consistent demand for critical power needed to ensure patient safety at Nemours.

“We test the generator sets and switchgear on a monthly basis by triggering different areas of the hospital to simulate a power interruption to ensure that when the day comes that we need it, it will be operational,” Roque said. “We’re confident that if something should happen, the generator sets will work as perfectly as they do in testing.”

Author

Kevin McKinney is a senior sales manager at MTU Onsite Energy.

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