Who Watches the Watchmen?

Backing up your backups—aka redundancy—is critical

Having backup for the backup to the backup is the only way to go in power and systems. For the healthcare market, which provides critical and comprehensive care 24/7, it’s a necessity. Making sure any and all critical systems have some form of built-in redundancy takes on even more importance for these institutions.

There are must-run systems that are absolute, non-disputable requirements for operation in healthcare and hospitals—power and access to information. Due to the heavy reliance on these systems, it is an essential function for all facilities to make sure that in the event of a system outage, a redundancy plan is in place to ensure that downtime is not only minimized, but all but eliminated with backup systems that immediately step in to provide near-normal operation until the problem is resolved.

Critical operations of medical facilities would be seriously and adversely affected if the electrical and/or communications systems were unoperational, for whatever reason. The potential for loss of life within the healthcare facility becomes reality and a liability issue when power, systems and services are lost.

Two vital systems within any given healthcare organization are the electrical and networking systems. The electrical system and its sheer and utter importance can be gauged due to standard operating requirements such as equipment usage, patient account access (which of course, ties into the networking portion), lighting and the like. It could easily be said that disastrous events could occur if, for example, a hospital’s electrical system went out. Even if the building were designed in such a manner that not all areas could go dark all at the same time, mass outages are a possibility that must be considered.

The networking portion, mainly the voice and data communications, is vital to the daily working environment of healthcare and hospital facilities. The patient information access alone is something that could, in itself, pose myriad problems.

Get redundant

For the purpose of redundancy and the healthcare market, security systems tend to operate almost exclusively off of both the communications and electrical systems, and they, too, have Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) and implement disaster planning software, hardware and peripherals to minimize down time in the event of a communications crisis.

In addition to a long-term electrical plan, temporary and emergency plans may be devised as well with the end-user involved. In fact, many healthcare security directors or IT people have taken the time to do crisis planning and update their plans on a regular basis. For example, though a UPS may have been installed to protect data on a server, it should not take the place of a generator. A UPS is generally designed to operate for around 20-30 minutes only. Depending upon the severity of the situation at hand, that may not be enough time to correct the problem. That is why there should also be a plan in place to backup the backup. Emergency power generators are a prime example of simple steps to implement redundancy. And of course, a quality installation and planning from all parties, including designers, specifiers, integrators, electrical contractors and the customer is the only way to ensure that redundancy is effective overall.

In critical environments such as hospitals and healthcare facilities, multiple power sources should be in place. If such measures have yet to be taken, it is something that needs to seriously be considered.

Of course, there is much more, such as each healthcare facility’s own requirements, and local and even national regulations. Again, working closely as a team with every player in the integrated installation will ensure a system that works, and works well, and has the proper redundancy built in.

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at JenLeahS@msn.com.


About the Author

Jennifer Leah Stong-Michas

Freelance Writer
Jennifer Leah Stong-Michas is a freelance writer who lives in central Pennsylvania.

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