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When disaster strikes, facility professionals too often do not know where to initially focus their attention.
“It starts with your electrical,” says Keith McKendall, an Ochsner facilities manager who focuses on electrical systems. “From there, you go from your electrical, and you look at your water and then to your AC systems. We really work in teams. If one group is overwhelmed, we shift resources. It’s really about being able to shift resources on the fly.”
Ensuring emergency power and a water supply were the first issues the Ochsner disaster teams had to tackle during Katrina. City water was the first utility the hospital lost when the hurricane hit, Carpenter says. Fortunately, the hospital had drilled a well in the 1960s, providing water for domestic use and plumbing during the storm. Since Katrina, Ochsner has drilled a well at each of the hospitals off the main campus to prepare for the next time the city loses water.
“If you lose water, you’ve lost your air conditioning, you’ve lost your boilers, you’ve lost your water to be able to take a bath, plus toilets and everything,” Carpenter says. “That was a very key issue. We were very fortunate that we had a well that was on emergency power.”
While the generators were effective in keeping Ochsner up and running during Katrina, the immobility of the emergency power was a problem.
“Almost everything we had was fixed before (Katrina),” says Grant Walker, Ochsner’s system vice president of supply chain and support services. “We couldn’t move it anywhere. It was stuck.”
As a result of Katrina, all of Ochsner’s generators now come equipped with flat-bed trucks, allowing managers the flexibility to move the emergency power within the seven-hospital health system. During Gustav earlier this fall, Walker and his crew thought one of its hospitals off the main campus could be flooded, based on the direction of the storm. They moved a generator to higher ground on that campus to prepare for the worst.
At the time Katrina hit, the main function of the generators had been to power the hospital’s life-safety equipment. But now, the organization has added generators and made them mobile throughout the health system, so most of the main campus has 100 percent emergency power.
“We don’t even think about generators in the form of emergency power anymore,” Walker says. “When we buy generators, (the idea is) you disconnect the main feed to the hospital, and you turn this generator on, and everything can 100 percent run.”
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