Backup power failure at healthcare facilities can be a life-threatening proposition

Lawmakers ask Justice Department to investigate whether VA executives lied to Congress

By David Johnson / Special to Healthcare Facilities Today
September 30, 2016

Recent reports indicate that regulatory and market pressures will continue to drive the adoption of uninterrupted power supply (UPS) in the healthcare sector. 

The aging grid infrastructure, increased power consumption and recent extreme weather conditions have made power outages a regular occurrence.   A recent report on UPS market by Hexa Research underscores this issue by citing that the “U.S. economy loses up to USD 550 billion annually due to power outages and other disturbances.”

No one can argue that power availability is paramount to healthcare organizations, where every second without power can translate into a matter of life or death.  In fact, the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA 110) standard for emergency and standby power system requires that all healthcare facilities secure a minimum of 96 hours of fuel oil supply for an emergency standby power plant.  In addition to emergency power during outages, backup power is critical for day-to-day operations such as: 

·       Life sustaining equipment

·       Medical imaging devices

·       Emergency response equipment 

 The NFPA and National Electrical Code both require emergency power restoration to healthcare and critical-care facilities within 10 seconds of an outage.  No doubt 100 percent backup is a “must have” for OR and ICU rooms which require two separate sources of power to feed each room, including a normal power distribution and an emergency source. 

Imagine the chaos a partial power outage can create at a critical-care unit — risking patients’ lives and safety.  Even a single voltage dip lasting only 100 milliseconds can have the same effect as a power outage lasting several minutes or more — makes a reliable and uninterrupted power source one of the top critical business objectives for healthcare-related organizations.

Daily regiment of UPS is healthy

Healthcare-related facilities could secure seamless operations using power management technology. Organizations relying on onsite generators for backup power are well aware that generators take time to get power to the critical equipment — interruptions in healthcare service delivery is not an option. Power outages, no matter how brief, can be dire risking patients’ lives undergoing surgery or under critical care at an ICU.

While some healthcare organizations rely on smaller static UPS systems to support small, non-motor production loads, the most reliable UPS system for healthcare is the rotary UPS technology option.  The rotary UPS provides uninterrupted power for the entire infrastructure and eliminates risks of costly downtime while securing power for critical healthcare services.

Best Prescription for healthcare organizations’ cost savings — UPS systems

Healthcare organizations needing a 24x7 power supply can find the best value-add in a UPS system.  Most business-critical organizations select rotary-based UPS systems over costly static-based battery systems because battery systems require continued maintenance (consuming CAPEX funds) and must be regularly updated.

Users of healthcare organizations demand superb and uninterrupted healthcare services.  But shrinking hospital budgets have challenged facility managers who are now faced with limited space allocations for critical care equipment.  The more systems requiring UPS power, the more units scattered across the facility taking up space and creating on-going maintenance challenges. Consider that the typical lifespan of batteries in the static UPS systems is between five to seven years – and adding to this is the costly, budget-challenging removal and replacement of batteries — multiple times.

DRUPS system revives life

A diesel rotary-based system, or DRUPS, is the better option for business-critical facilities because they are a cost-effective, environmentally friendly alternative to static battery UPS.  Here’s why DRUPS is the best option for healthcare facilities:

·       During a power outage, the system retrieves kinetic energy from its flywheel and supports the critical load until the diesel engine kicks in. 

·       It integrates the traditional backup components into a single, space-saving system.

·       It’s a natural way of creating power.

·       With a 30-year lifespan, it offers considerable cost savings for healthcare organizations using five-year replacement option of traditional UPS systems.

·       No toxic batteries or chemicals make it a winner with “green” advocates.

·       Its reliable system produces clean voltage.

·       Can operate at low or medium voltage.

·       Supports motor loads such as HVAC and chiller plants.

Most importantly, DRUPS systems replace all of the battery-backed, static UPS equipment required to support critical IT loads – and replace standby diesel generating equipment required for continuous power supply.  Two functions within a single, compact concept is what makes the DRUPS system far more environmentally beneficial and the better option. 

But there is additional value! The latest technology advancements offer a power backup making it three percent more efficient than typical UPS systems.  Three percent may not seem like much of an advantage but it can easily translate into millions of dollars in savings for healthcare organizations operating 24x7/365 days per year. 

In addition, the latest DRUPS technology is the “greener” option.  Why? Because it eliminates the use of standby batteries for energy storage, which means goodbye to such hazardous components as lead, acid, nickel, or cadmium. 

A financially healthy prescription

What if you were offered a 15% capital cost savings on day one?  There is even more savings a DRUPS system can offer a healthcare organization. Healthcare organizations’ precision and efficiency means critical equipment must operate at peak performance.  A rotary UPS system operates at 98% efficiency levels compared to 94% efficiency levels of a static UPS system.

No doubt that the market’s most ideal option is the DRUPS system – with industry-leading ROI and technology advancements that far surpass traditional static UPS solutions. The benefits to healthcare organizations are plentiful:

·       Eliminating unnecessary diesel engine starts means reduced emissions.

·       Increasing efficiency via transformer-less medium voltage systems.

·       Reducing healthcare utility bills – with right-sizing equipment to the load allowing it to consume far less energy.

·       Eliminating battery disposals in landfills – offering a longer lifespan.

·       Following the strictest industry standards for emission levels - EPA tier rated - with savings of thousands of kilowatt-hours.

Technology advancements are the cornerstone of any healthcare organizations’ offerings – including mission-critical applications that allow for uninterrupted services.   Just like medical advancements have empowered healthcare organizations to offer top-level treatments, DRUPS usage needs to be considered as an important part of mission-critical power requirements. 

David Johnson is the director of business development for HITEC Power Protection, Inc., a provider of UPS systems.


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