Last Evening There Was a Power Outage...

While hot, humid air may be outside, a temperature of 68 degrees and humidity less than 50% is ideal for cardiac cath and electrophysiology laboratories. On occasion, the loss of air conditioning can occur and our hospital environment becomes hot and humid quickly. This has happened twice in my career. The first time at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, we took a chance, turned on equipment and blew the x-ray tube. I remembered that scenario and was able to avoid damage to equipment with my second loss of air conditioning. I thought my experience might be useful information for other cardiac cath labs during the hot and humid summer. Below is a copy of my email to the staff. Dear Staff, Last evening around 5:05 p.m., there was a power outage at the hospital. The emergency generator came on, but the air handlers for the cardiac cath lab did not. Within five minutes, warm moist air was condensing on every cool surface in the cardiac cath lab. This situation has definite hazards. First, the floors are wet and slippery. Second, any electrical equipment may short out. When there is moisture on and in the equipment, it "is sorta like driving a toaster through a car wash” (that's a Jack Swigert quote from the movie Apollo 13). The x-ray tube with 480 volts and the flat screen detector are prone to snap, crackle, and pop. They would then need to be replaced. It would take a lot of time and money to replace them. From a safety and protective standpoint, should we lose the air conditioning in the future, you should shut off the electrical as soon as reasonable (there may be a patient on the table – many factors have to be considered). You will have a few minutes before condensation is significant enough to cause problems. You should make others aware of slippery floors and place signage if available. Most importantly, you should alert engineering and your supervisors of the loss of air conditioning. Last evening, the power was off for over an hour and hospital staff went around the floors and the cardiac cath lab to provide cool water to drink and hand fans to help cool. In the event of lost power, the rally point will probably be the dining room. If you have no duties or other responsibilities that need your immediate attention, go to the dining room and to see how you can help. I pray that you don’t have to deal with these challenges in the future. I would like you to have some knowledge and ideas on dealing with challenges. If you have any knowledge, thoughts, or further ideas on this matter please let me know. Respectfully yours, Marshall Ritchey Manager, Cardiac Cath Lab Piedmont Medical Center Rock Hill, South Carolina