Monday, September 01, 2014

Unusual storm disrupts hospital

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 2/21/2014

A lightning strike during an out-of-season February thunderstorm late Wednesday afternoon might have been the culprit behind a smoking transformer that sent Ottawa firefighters on the run to Ransom Memorial Hospital.

“There was an apparent problem with the electrical switching gear located in the basement mechanical room [at Ransom],” Jeff Carner, Ottawa fire chief, said. “This created light smoke and odor in some areas of the hospital.”

A lightning strike during an out-of-season February thunderstorm late Wednesday afternoon might have been the culprit behind a smoking transformer that sent Ottawa firefighters on the run to Ransom Memorial Hospital.

“There was an apparent problem with the electrical switching gear located in the basement mechanical room [at Ransom],” Jeff Carner, Ottawa fire chief, said. “This created light smoke and odor in some areas of the hospital.”

Firefighters used equipment to ventilate the smoke and odor from the hospital, 1301 S. Main St., Ottawa, Carner said. An evacuation of the hospital was not needed, and no fire occurred, the chief added.

“An electrician did respond to the location and made temporary repairs to the system,” Carner said.

Larry Felix, Ransom’s chief executive officer, said hospital officials thought an apparent lightning strike had damaged an electrical component in a transformer in the mechanical room about 5:20 p.m. Wednesday.

“We think it probably was a lightning strike because we also had five computers in the hospital that were fried [at the same time],” Felix said. “Fortunately no imaging and lab equipment, that we know of, was damaged.”

Felix estimated the cost to replace the transformer’s electrical part would be $1,000 to $2,000, plus labor. He said the hospital also would be replacing the five damaged computers and would be changing all the filters in the air handlers. A tally of the damage was not yet available, Felix said, but he classified it as a “minor incident” — both in terms of cost and in disruption of hospital operations.

“We had to cancel our surgeries for today while we continued the remediation process,” Felix said Thursday. “But we expect to be back to normal tomorrow, and no other area of the hospital was affected.”

The surgery room was affected by the smoke and odor because it was directly above the mechanical room that housed the smoking transformer, Felix said.

“We have a certified remediator come to do testing [to ensure conditions are optimal],” Felix said. “As you can imagine, a lot of testing has to be done, and that process is taking place today.”

Melting plastic on the electrical component generated the smoke before the system automatically shut down and it cooled off, Felix said.

“Fortunately it was just smoke and no fire,” Felix said. “The entire hospital is under a sprinkler system that would put out a fire if one ever occurred. There was no heat in this case, so the sprinklers weren’t activated.”

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