This dependence poses an ongoing challenge for hospital and medical office management. Healthcare facilities rely on a range of electronic systems to track patients, determine their needs, and deliver the required essential services – but these systems, like all sensitive electronic systems, are vulnerable to electrical disturbances and the potential damage from electrical surges. Power surges can destroy an electronic system dramatically, all at once, or they can gradually damage a system a little at a time without it ever being noticed by management until it fails.
Many medical facility managers are not aware how common power surges are, or how damaging they can be to electronic systems. People sometimes think that power surges are only a result of lightning strikes – when in truth small, everyday power surges are far more common. In fact, power surges are often caused by the equipment right inside or nearby the facility, or by unseen events such as switching on the utility power grid.
While every sensitive electronic system is vulnerable to power surges, spikes, and disturbances, the complexity and critical nature of hospital systems poses a particular risk. This is partly because some systems, such as surveillance video and access control including controlled parking areas, are outdoors and relatively exposed to the elements. It is also partly because communications antenna connections and data networking cables traverse from interior to exterior areas, providing additional transmission paths for damaging electrical surges.
Strategies for Protecting Hospital Systems
Countering the potential negative effects of electrical surges in a medical environment will require several distinct, but complementary, steps.
1. Protecting Incoming Power
Adding appropriate surge protective devices at the electrical service entrance is the first step to protect a facility from external sources of electrical surges and spikes. Surge protective devices are available for a range of common commercial service voltages used by hospitals and medical facilities.
2. Protecting Alternate Surge Pathways
Other possible surge pathways include communication cables, antenna connection wires, and similar signaling and control cables that traverse from outside a building to the interior spaces. Special surge protective devices are designed for this purpose that will stop surge currents while allowing the desired data and signals easy passage.
3. Addressing Internal Surge Sources
Most people are surprised to learn that many daily surge events are generated from within the facility itself. Common sources such as HVAC systems, generators, pumps, and other powerful electrical equipment often generate surges when they switch on or off. Adding surge protective devices at these surge sources can minimize their effects on other sensitive electronic systems.
4. Protecting Vulnerable Systems
Of course, if a system is particularly important or sensitive, it also makes sense to provide protection directly at the point of use. A wide range of suitable surge protective devices is available to meet the needs of most equipment.
5. Enacting Ongoing Monitoring
Installing surge protection is the right first step, but managers must be aware that surge protection will deteriorate over time and will eventually require replacement. To ensure that sensitive systems remain protected, implement a periodic review of all the installed surge protection systems and replace any unit(s) that are no longer functioning. In particularly sensitive locations, an alternative approach may be possible using surge protective devices with built-in alarm functionality to alert staff when protection is compromised, such as DITEK’s Deflector Series.
DITEK provides surge protection solutions that are ideal for professional installations at hospitals and all kinds of medical facilities. A full range of application-specific models are available; designed for ease of installation, effectiveness and made in the USA.
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