Evacuations after major NYC hospital loses backup power - page 3

by herring_RN Guide | 4,673 Views | 31 Comments

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says backup power has been lost at New York University hospital and the city is working to move people out. ... The hospital complex is near the East River in an area of lower Manhattan where... Read More


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    A hospital needs to have a RELIABLE source of backup power for emergencies. It's not like if you lose the power to your home (I did for about 16 hours) where all that is at risk are your groceries unless you can get ice and dry ice to keep them cold. We are talking about life-critical equipment, plus the need to move seriously ill people to another location. Somebody needs to find out why the backup generator failed. If it's not reliable, then they need two backup generators (parallel system reliability.) (Disclaimer: Does not constitute formal engineering advice.)
    tnmarie, herring_RN, and multi10 like this.
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    i thought the generator flooded? i dont know anything about generators but that is a possibility i suppose . with enough wind and rai i guess they can also become damaged as can anything.
    tnmarie and herring_RN like this.
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    Quote from Bill Levinson
    Somebody needs to find out why the backup generator failed. If it's not reliable, then they need two backup generators (parallel system reliability.) (Disclaimer: Does not constitute formal engineering advice.)
    According to the article linked in someone's recent post, they had a backup generator and a second backup backup generator. The backup backup was on a lower floor and flooded, the fuel pump for the primary backup (located on the roof) also flooded. Sometimes, even the best plans for emergencies don't meet up with the emergency that actually happens.

    Either way, it certainly puts my "bad days" into perspective.
    tnmarie, anotherone, and herring_RN like this.
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    Quote from Emergency RN
    I work in one of those hospitals that took in many of those emergency transfers from NYU Langone; let me tell you, that if people think those nurses deserve praise for transporting those patient out, many may be surprised to realize that it didn't just stop there. Upon arrival with those patients into the new hospitals, many of these RNs resumed their care despite being in completely new surroundings. The hospital took their names and was able to ascertain licensure status from the state, and allowed them to continue working as full RNs.

    It seems to me that the more one digs into this story about dedication to duty, the more one finds that is worthy of laudatory adjectives. IMHO, that's just the nature of the nurse, humbly and quietly going about their business while conducting themselves with the best of human character; it's a shame that it takes a disaster for the public to notice.

    Kudos to those in NYU Langone for showing the world what nurses really are.
    This is written eloquently! Well said!
    tnmarie, anotherone, herring_RN, and 1 other like this.
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    Quote from Bill Levinson
    A hospital needs to have a RELIABLE source of backup power for emergencies. It's not like if you lose the power to your home (I did for about 16 hours) where all that is at risk are your groceries unless you can get ice and dry ice to keep them cold. We are talking about life-critical equipment, plus the need to move seriously ill people to another location. Somebody needs to find out why the backup generator failed. If it's not reliable, then they need two backup generators (parallel system reliability.) (Disclaimer: Does not constitute formal engineering advice.)
    Well, I don't work at NYU...so I can't say with 100% certainty, but from some news reports I've read - the generators worked initially and were in a location that allowed damage due to the storm. That's usually how it happens. I've been on the receiving end of evacuated patients. My employer at the time was the only level 1 trauma center over 150 miles, only hospital capable of taking NICU and PICU patients...the only other hospital capable of NICU/PICU was 55 miles away and happened to be the only level 2 trauma center in our region (aka the hospital that was evacuated). The situation that prompted the transfer of patients to my employer was that we had a super severe storm go through our area. The hospital we got patients from was damaged and the generators kicked on. For lack of a better term - crap hit the fan and that hospital and my employer at the time, had to do what was best for the PEOPLE in the situation aka the patients.

    I worked through tornadoes and winter storms in previous jobs. We lost power. We lost power the night (at my last job) that we got transfers from another hospital. Every time, each facility had an "electrical usage / utilities failure" policy or protocol for when we were on the generators (usually with the emergency procedure book). All but one of my jobs have been in level 1 trauma centers that do not close (unless staying is more dangerous to patients than transfers to other facilities). And it's so very very rare to go on diversion (my last job did the night of that storm...after we took 40 critical care transfers plus 20 trauma calls in 8 hours). My old unit was considered stepdown, but with the transfers, I had 7 patients, 3 of which, under other circumstances would have been in an ICU bed.

    I am working at a level 1 trauma center in the OR now. About two weeks ago plant operations/clinical engineering tripped the generators and forced us onto the generators test the generators and the "people response". The front desk calls and says we can work on the case we're on now but can't start anything else...until we got the all clear/power restored. Later, we found out it was a test. I said "people response" because there can be policies, procedures, protocols whatever, from here to Mars to "help" preserve generators / critical resources. But the policies mean nothing when people don't know them and/or don't follow them. Our generator is able to power the hospital but it's stupid to think it's a good idea to run all the rooms in our OR if we don't have to when we're reliant on a generator.

    Yes. An organization should want as much redundancy as possible. But not everything can be anticipated. It's impossible if for no other reason than there is still room for human error. Your suggestion would be the same as making claims that a hospital is disaster proof. Many pieces of medical equipment have batteries that will power up to 6 hours of operation on top of whatever the hospital's generator is capable of (which is why, as a floor nurse, I was so particular about keeping my equipment/pumps etc plugged in unless transporting a patient).

    I think there are a lot of factors here to consider. It's not just the hospital's fault. Natural disasters happen, which is why those events are called disasters. Part of a discussion we should be having in the US is the state of our infrastructure. Much of our nation's infrastructure is pieced together like a patchwork quilt, and only ever updated to meet the bare minimum needs for functionality. I have worked primarily in state/public/community hospitals. There needs to be an investment in this nation's future made to public services of all kinds.

    The thing about reality is, sometimes the best that can be done is the best that can be done. Situations we don't anticipate will happen, extraordinary things will happen no matter what. If not natural disasters then some type of man made situation would happen - it will always be something. All we (and our employers) can control is our response to it, and that we act in the best interests of our consumers/patients/families. Some days that's going to be all we can do in this profession.
    JeanettePNP, anotherone, herring_RN, and 2 others like this.
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    Quote from Bill Levinson
    A hospital needs to have a RELIABLE source of backup power for emergencies. It's not like if you lose the power to your home (I did for about 16 hours) where all that is at risk are your groceries unless you can get ice and dry ice to keep them cold. We are talking about life-critical equipment, plus the need to move seriously ill people to another location. Somebody needs to find out why the backup generator failed. If it's not reliable, then they need two backup generators (parallel system reliability.) (Disclaimer: Does not constitute formal engineering advice.)
    I'm quite certain that the hospital in question believed they had a reliable source of backup power for emergencies. Sandy was an anomaly -- a hurricane, a nor'easter AND a blizzard. No one could have predicted a storm like that -- it was a real of nature.

    Instead of bashing the hospital, why not take a moment to reflect on the awesomeness of the staff who managed to transfer all of those sick patients to other facilities, and then pitched in to care for them there?
    anotherone, herring_RN, and Rose_Queen like this.
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    I worked during the Northridge earthquake in 1994. The power went out, came back on, and was off again.
    The generator came on when city electricity went down. The the generator was skaken off it's platform with an after shock.
    Both my adut patients were mechanically ventilated. Some of us had little flashlights that we squeezed to check pupils. we put those between our teeth so both hands could be free.
    tnmarie and anotherone like this.
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    *Update*

    Dr. John LaPook is on Charlie Rose (PBS stations) being interviewed about the NYU-Langone evacuation.
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    Quote from Bill Levinson
    A hospital needs to have a RELIABLE source of backup power for emergencies. It's not like if you lose the power to your home (I did for about 16 hours) where all that is at risk are your groceries unless you can get ice and dry ice to keep them cold. We are talking about life-critical equipment, plus the need to move seriously ill people to another location. Somebody needs to find out why the backup generator failed. If it's not reliable, then they need two backup generators (parallel system reliability.) (Disclaimer: Does not constitute formal engineering advice.)
    Dr. John LaPook (who was at NYU-Langone during the evacuation) explained what happened.

    NYU-Langone has several series of back-up generators several of which are located on upper floors of the hospital complex, however per NYS/NYC code the fuel pumps to those generators are located in the basements of the buildings. The storm surge was way over what was ever predicted (NYU's backyard is the FDR Drive then the East River beyond) when things were designed and water began to enter. That water got to the fuel pumps and thus they had to be shut down. Once the fuel pumps were not operating the generators located on upper floors couldn't operate.

    All generators are working now/flood water removed but NYU-Langone is wating until Con Edison restores power before opening up for patients again.

    For the record NYU-Langone is in the process of building a new state of the art two hundred million dollar power plant capable of providing for the entire complex. It is under construction in a building on hospital property and is scheduled to be completed by 2014.

    DGTG
    herring_RN likes this.
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    NYU-Langone NICU nurses on ABCNews right now: Hero NYU Hospital Staff Rescues Newborns During Sandy - ABC News


    Great interview with the NICU nurses from NYU-Langone speaking about the recent evacuation of the hospital during hurricane Sandy. Included in the group is the nurse seen worldwide and commented on by Obama holding an infant on stretcher as they are being loaded onto ambulance.
    tnmarie and herring_RN like this.


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