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Managing the Impact and Costs of Emergency Power Testing on Hospital Operations


Introduction Hospitals are required to have an emergency power testing program in place to meet the requirements of NFPA 70, NFPA 99 and NFPA 110, as well as standards established by accreditation organizations such as JCAHO. The goal of the emergency power testing program should be to comply with regulatory requirements without adversely affecting the operation of the hospital or the well-being of the patients. The specific requirements to be met are referenced by the forerunner1 to this paper. That technical document addresses the importance of simulating actual loading conditions during the testing period and the necessity of following up on the test results to identify problems and take corrective action. This paper builds upon that publication by detailing a case study of emergency power testing occurring over a significant period of time at The Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), issues uncovered (which might be described as second order consequences2 of the emergency power testing effort) and the steps taken to eliminate problematic issues.

Emergency power testing programs involve transferring the power sources of operating systems from utility power to the emergency generators and back. This action can cause disruption to increasingly more complex clinical and building equipment, building automation systems, and hospital operations. When managed properly and proactively followed through, these disruptions are valuable learning experiences and provide opportunities to improve the hospital infrastructure, improve hospital operations and reduce the hidden costs of testing. This case study presents a number of lessons learned and offers proactive strategies for managing the process. The lessons learned also illustrate areas where future system designs should be improved. Value of Testing and Transferring Power The monthly testing will cause emergency power system failures to occur.3