Dan Chisholm, Sr., CHEPP, Dan serves as Chairman of the National Fire Protection Association’s Technical Committees responsible for NFPA 110, Emergency and Standby Power Systems, NFPA 111, Stored Electrical Energy Emergency and Standby Power Systems, and a technical committee member of the Electrical Section of NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code, while also serving as a primary emergency power consultant to the U.S. Army Medical Department (AMEDD) and the Department of Defense. Dan’s numerous speaking engagements have included addressing annual Healthcare Engineering Association meetings in 40 states and annual meetings of the American Society of Healthcare Engineers (ASHE) during the last 30 years. His publication credits include authoring Emergency Power Supply Systems white papers for the American Hospital Association, Joint Commission, CMS, FEMA and the Veterans Administration.
Most generator sets now utilize electronic control panels that provide accurate digital metering and monitoring of the engine and generator. The bulk of these newer controls are Modbus ‘ready’. In that regard, the locally displayed data can be conveyed to other Modbus platforms. If the desire is to move away from manual/handwritten reporting, the two main choices to convey this information are between hardwired and wireless cellular systems. We advocate wireless cellular over “hard-wired” systems for a number of reasons:
- An effective staff person / first responder is rarely present at the wired remote annunciator location when an event occurs. Some remote annunciators are located in PBX locations where tape has been placed over the audible alarm horn.
- Excessive wire runs create control power voltage drops...and may corrupt data between the main control and annunciator.
- Exposure to transient voltages and/or electrical surges. Subsequently, blown fuses may disable parts or all of the main controller’s function.
- Exposure to RFI
- Loss of power to the remote annunciator (without notification)
- Cranking voltage drop causing loss of information to the remote annunciator
- Building automation systems (BAS) are not allowed to be used for remote annunciation except as a supplement. NFPA 99, 220.127.116.11.15.9
Wireless cellular monitoring with automatic reporting features has many advantages:
- Manual recording of all required testing and power outages is eliminated.
- When automated recording features are utilized, round-the-clock data collection is readily available and digitally accurate; allowing resource assignment to higher priority missions.
- Provides alarm notification to first responders (engineering staff and generator contractors) directly through a cellular network by text or email.
- Generators are pinged every few seconds to monitor potential problems through a trending program.
- Loss of communication with the generator; caused by corrupt data or control power, initiates fault notifications directly to first responders.
- All AHJ required reporting (NFPA 99 and 110) is automatically downloaded and stored on client’s and cloud servers, thus reducing staff time and recording errors.
- Alerts staff anytime generator has been asked to start, including no-load tests and power outages. Records and archives all generator run events, not just testing for compliance testing.
- Automatic data collection during power outages may substitute for compliance testing if duration and load percentages meet the minimum standards. (NFPA 110, 18.104.22.168)
- Phraseology, nomenclatures, and additional data can be customized to meet specific site criteria.
- Remote starting capability
- Contractors can access the generator data to run diagnostics.
- Guaranteed compliance to all AHJ requirements.
- “Smart” systems as described are readily available for less than $1500/generator equipped with Modbus platforms; plus reasonable annual reporting charges depending on level of services. Older generator sets with analog controls could (and should) be upgraded to digital Modbus ready control panel kits. Most of the analog panels still in the field have obsolete components that make effective troubleshooting and repair difficult.
MGI and Duke Energy have developed a new way of bringing power resiliency and compliance to the next level. Working collaboratively we have forged a customized model that meets patient safety protocols while mitigating risks.
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