When it comes to power, we rarely give it a thought—it’s just something that’s always there, always reliable—until it isn’t. Have you ever considered just what happens when a power source goes down in a critical building, like the hospital? The maintenance team at Prowers Medical Center certainly has.
“We have three generators on our property. If we lose power, we can have the emergency circuits up and running in less than 10 seconds. All of our key equipment, like in the operating room, has battery backup that kicks in immediately,” said Shaun Beckett, Facilities Manager.
In fact, the hospital has enough fuel to run the generators (and batteries) to keep the hospital running for four days straight. That’s a lot, considering the longest outage in recent years lasted 16 hours from the tornados in 2012.
“The city also has the ability to redirect power to us, because they know what we do is critical. That means there are backups to our backups,” Beckett added.
To be a maintenance worker, you need to know how to multitask, and you have to be a jack-of-all-trades/master of most with basic mechanical and plumbing skills. Work orders come in via the computer all day long—and workers are constantly prioritizing— if something critical comes up they set down what they are doing and go and handle it immediately.
Of course, the three-member crew takes care of the 20-plus acre grounds as you imagine—mowing, planting and maintaining cleanliness in the summer, shoveling snow and ice and clearing entrances, sidewalks, footpaths and the helipad in the winter.
What you may not consider are the tumbleweeds. As you know they run in herds, migrating across the prairies. For the hospital, they present a nuisance and hinder access in addition to looking bad when they pile up in corners and must be removed.
“We have literally had city trash trucks come in to haul them away,” Beckett said.
The maintenance crew is responsible for preventing a variety of problems. For example, they maintain all water, heat, light and air systems in the entire building. All equipment maintenance must be documented to meet state standards. They also run fire drills and inspect all fire extinguishers.
“First thing each morning they inspect the boiler room to make sure oxygen, steam, water and vacuum systems are all working well. If there is no steam, there is no working kitchen or operating room,” Beckett said.
The crew is also responsible for fixing plumbing problems like low water pressure and leaks throughout the 96,000 square-foot hospital. They change an unbelievable number of light bulbs and test several hundred exit and emergency lights.
“There is so much most people don’t consider when it comes to maintenance. For example, we use nearly 20,000 gallons of water a day, and the crew puts 450 pounds of salt in the water every day. Without soft water, showers are uncomfortable, and the water boilers and kitchen equipment doesn’t run well,” Beckett added.
“Like with our housekeepers, our maintenance crew members are truly unsung heroes. If the building doesn’t have power and water, and if our walkways and helipad are not clear and safe, we cannot provide services to our patients,” said Anna Bockhorn, Facilities Management Assistant.
Thanks to the advanced computer system, the maintenance crew can take one item off their list: adjusting the temperature in patient rooms.
“The crew no longer has to run to patient rooms to adjust the temperature, we can do that with a touch of a computer button, which lets us pull up the temperature for each patient room and adjust it from here,” Bockhorn said.
If you are planning a visit to Prowers Medical Center soon and happen to see a maintenance worker changing a light bulb or maintaining the grounds, thank him for his dedication to your health and safety. It will surely mean a lot.