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What Are Hospital Emergency Power Requirements?

Unexpected power outages can be a nuisance. But when blackouts, brownouts, and other electrical disruptions affect hospitals and healthcare facilities, it can be more than just a nuisance; it may be a matter of life and death.

Hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities require constant power to support patients with constant needs and chronic health conditions. Without immediate access to reliable electrical power sources, individuals who depend on ventilators, dialysis, anesthesia machines, and other medical devices may find themselves without the use of the equipment they depend on. And even just a few minutes of power failure can have devastating consequences.

How Can a Hospital Run Without Power?
When the power goes out, hospitals need a way to ensure that patients aren’t left in the dark.

As such, hospitals and care facilities rely on backup power systems that include generators, paralleling switchgear and transfer switches. These systems are designed to provide power within seconds of a power outage and supply the hospital’s electrical needs until utility power is restored. And with so much at stake, emergency power systems are regulated by industry codes or standards. Here, we explore basic hospital emergency power requirements and take a closer look at the emergency power systems that help keep people safe when utility power fails.

What Are the Basic Hospital Emergency Power Requirements?
First and foremost, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Life Safety Code (also called NFPA 101) specifies that any medical-care facility with life-support dependent patients must install and maintain hospital backup-generator emergency solutions. This includes performing regular backup power system tests using qualified repair and maintenance personnel.

The generators themselves are likewise strictly regulated.

Chapter 6 of NFPA 99 describes essential electrical systems (EES) requirements for hospitals. NFPA 99 identifies two different risk categories, and their associated EES requirement (Type 1 and Type 2)., Areas of healthcare facilities where electrical failures could cause serious injury or death require Type 1 backup power systems. Other areas, where a power outage is unlikely to pose a risk to patients, may be categorized as Type 2. NFPA 99 classifies generators as EES and requires generators servicing Type 1 locations to meet strict system requirements. Read more about NFPA 99.

NFPA 110
NFPA 110 likewise categorizes emergency power systems (EPSS) into two different types according to their associated risk. Level 2 systems may be installed in non-critical areas where a power failure would be unlikely to cause injury or death, while Level 1 systems are used in more critical locations where EPSS failure could represent a serious danger to patients or others. Importantly, NFPA 110 also outlines generator testing requirements and requirements for backup power system testing. Other codes reference PFA 110, making it an essential resource for those who interact with and manage critical emergency power equipment. Access a two-part NFPA 110 overview here and here.

Also known as the National Electrical Code, NFPA 70 focuses on the safety of installed electrical equipment. It contains key provisions that specify how quickly backup power must be made available when an outage of the normal power source occurs. All life-safety and legally required loads must have access to emergency power within specified time limits. Review NFPA 70 here.

What Are the Types of Hospital Emergency Power Generators?
Hospitals rely on different kinds of power generators to supply backup power. The following are several possible options:

Offering high efficiency, diesel generators are the most commonly used backup power source for hospitals.

Gas units make up only a small fraction of emergency generators on the market. Although they often offer different performance characteristics than diesel units, gas generators can offer reduced emissions when compared to types of diesel. Because they are typically connected to natural gas distribution systems, they may offer extended continuous operation without a need for fuel deliveries.

Mobile generators are often used as a secondary power source for a backup power supply. These generators may be transported to a healthcare facility to supplement a permanent generator that must be taken offline for maintenance or repair. Mobile generators are likewise valuable for providing backup power to facilities that cannot justify the expense of a permanent generator.

A microgrid is any form of self-sufficient energy system serving a specific location. Microgrids may encompass the aforementioned diesel, gas, and mobile generator options, or rely on other sources of energy. It’s worth noting, however, solar or wind power sources typically supplement a facility’s normal and emergency power sources, Here is a four-part white paper detailing microgrids and their uses (part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4).

How Do Hospitals Make the Best Use of Generators?

While hospital emergency power systems must be capable of meeting large power needs, real-time demand may exceed capacity. Due to a number of factors (including cost), generators are seldom designed to supply the entire facility’s normal power load. Instead, they often set supply emergency and legally required loads as well as some portion of the most important optional loads.

Load management equipment and its associated strategies help ensure that no single generator is responsible for more than its maximum capacity. Load management units (such as the ASCO 5800 Series) use assigned priorities to supervise automatic transfer switches (ATS), keeping the most vital loads online while also helping to manage less-vital loads. With effective load management, hospitals and other care facilities are able to intelligently connect and disconnect loads when needed to optimize generator usage.

Hospital Emergency Power Requirements: Rules that Save Lives

Hospital emergency power is something that few people consider, but everyone depends on. Supported by advanced backup power systems, load management strategies, and well-developed industry codes t r, healthcare facilities can operate securely in the knowledge that power outages don’t have to impact patient care and occupant well-being.

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