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Streamline Compliance to Concentrate on the Most Important Work

Hospitals and mission-critical facilities always have a lot going on. That’s especially true now, when life-saving services are needed more than ever, and data centers are providing an economic lifeline to a new society of work-at-home employees. The need to test backup power systems never seems to come at the right moment.

Nevertheless, medical and data centers could not provide life-saving and economically vital services if they lost power because of backup power system malfunction. Their need to verify backup power availability and performance is why facilities maintain and test backup power systems. It is also why industry standards and government regulations require that they do so. Streamlining these services can make it easier to test and comply using existing or even shrinking resources.

Regulatory Basis

In North American hospitals, testing is driven by requirements in NFPA 99 – Health Care Facilities. These and other mission-critical facilities, such as telecom office and data centers, are also subject to NFPA 110 – Standard for Emergency and Standby Power and NFPA 70 – National Electrical Code. Specified actions include monthly and annual testing to ensure that adequate backup power will come online within prescribed timeframes. This necessitates recording, compiling, and reporting information about test events to prove compliance. Other standards specify similar guidance or requirements for other regions of the globe.

Compliance is important because it leads organization towards best practices. Nevertheless, the effects of noncompliance can extend beyond testing objectives. Agencies such as the Joint Commission evaluate compliance to support hospital accreditation. Non-compliance can result in loss of accreditation. In turn, insurers may not pay for services rendered at unaccredited facilities.

Scope of Work

In a facility with one permanent engine-generator and a simple power distribution system, testing and reporting are straightforward. Someone at the site can query the control panels equipment control panels to collect needed information about when switching events occurred, then compile the results to verify compliance for future reference. But the amount of labor scales with the number of facilities, the complexity of their backup power systems, and the spatial or geographic distribution of the equipment and systems. For a telecommunications company operating many central offices or wireless cell sites, the number of facilities and the distances between them could multiply the time required to run tests and collect information.

As sites become more complex – perhaps for a regional wireless switching office or a data center – the quantity of generators and transfer switches increases the corresponding complexity of testing events. A low voltage application in a large hospital might run four engine-generators and a dozen transfer switches. A consolidated regional health care system with could have multiple hospitals and dozens of nearby assets such as outpatient and surgical centers. If an organization tests each facility’s backup power system 12 times per year, the workload is substantial. Recording and reporting all the test data for all equipment for all test events can add up to an operational challenge that consumes considerable resources.

Streamlining Compliance

Internet-connected devices can record, compile, and store equipment data automatically. When tests are conducted, these devices record time stamps and measured values, retain them in memory and transmit them to any connected location. All of this can occur automatically, and the resulting database can be used to auto-generate reports indicating whether compliance was achieved and providing supporting data. To automate reporting, two things are necessary: (1) communications-capable power equipment; (2) a system or platform for collecting, recording, and reporting power data.


Communication capabilities can be provided to power equipment such as an automatic transfer switch by adding an appropriate communication module. Adding modules that convert Digital IO, Serial or other data inputs to an IP-enabled protocol makes it possible to share data between systems and facilities. Some power devices offer built-in network connectivity or can display information directly through built-in web portals.

Data Aggregation and Reporting

Automated reporting requires a platform capable of logging data, comparing it to criteria, and reporting the results. These functions can be performed by intelligent annunciators that serve a few devices, network appliances that connect to a larger range of equipment, or server-based solutions that can host the largest power networks and provide the widest range of functions. Beyond compliance reporting, these systems offer expanded benefits such as real-time notification of power events and conditions and various options for displaying and analyzing power data.

Programs in these devices enable automatic report generation. They can be set to automatically compile and distribute reports that prove whether testing complied with criteria. For instance, test reports can show whether the amount of load and length of runtime met or exceeded regulated criteria. They can also inventory equipment settings for all devices on a system.

Of further value, these devices can compare data from generator runs during unplanned utility outages to see if the events fulfilled test requirements. Standards allow this data to be used in lieu of scheduled tests, saving the effort and cost of executing a regularly scheduled test. When qualifying outages occur, these systems can simply email a compliant test report to the necessary recipients ... without operator intervention ... even from spatially or geographically dispersed equipment and facilities.

Looking Forward

Critical power equipment providers offer features and options that make it possible to interconnect devices, record and evaluate test data, and automate compliance reporting. If your equipment has these capabilities, taking full advantage of them now can streamline compliance and enable personnel to address other issues ... like providing critical hospital services or keeping a data center online. If not, manufacturers offer compliance solutions for both new and existing gear.

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