Electric Shop: Got power?

We’d be in the dark without them, literally.

The Electric Shop, a division of Engineering Services, is responsible for all the electrical repairs, lights, and emergency power systems at UI Hospitals & Clinics, UI Health Care–Iowa River Landing, and Sports Medicine.

Three of the ten members of the Electric Shop team: Brian Gaul, electrician II; Tom Davin, electrical systems supervisor; and Doug Sanders, electrician III stand in the lower level of UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, with the color-coded conduits running along the ceiling above them

Three of the ten members of the Electric Shop team: Brian Gaul, electrician II; Tom Davin, electrical systems supervisor; and Doug Sanders, electrician III, stand in the lower level of UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, with color-coded conduits running along the ceiling above them

“Our team is committed to respond in any situation to help support the patients and families that need us, and that’s an amazing thing, to see that and be a part of it,” says Bob Miller, director of Engineering Services. “It’s a whole team effort.”

By the numbers

  • The team tests 20 generators weekly, 11 of which are on the main hospital campus, 3 at the Emergency Power Generator Facility near the Finkbine Commuter Lot, and 6 off campus.
  • They test 174 transfer switches monthly, which are responsible for switching the power to the emergency power generators when the power goes out.
  • The underground fuel storage tanks that supply diesel fuel to most of the generators hold 111,000 gallons, which could last at least four days.
  • There are over 75,000 breakers on the main hospital complex.

Did you know?

Contrary to popular belief, the red emergency outlets can lose power during a power outage, but don’t worry, not for more than 10 seconds while the generators are kicking in.

Powering a hospital

A hospital has some unique electric needs, many related to safety. For example, in the operating room, a line isolation monitoring system monitors the energy coming in and out of the surgical equipment to ensure that energy is not discharging and giving electric shocks to patients under anesthesia, as well as protecting the surgeon and other staff in the room.

And they don’t just work with the systems their given; they’re also often involved in system design. Tom Davin, electrical systems supervisor, explains how they worked with engineers and designers to get the conduits in the lower level of UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital color-coded: Green for life safety power, blue for normal power, orange for equipment, and yellow for critical power (shown in photo).

So what’s the biggest challenge the team has faced? In 2017, there was a MidAmerican power outage that caused the hospital and entire university campus to lose power. During this outage, the generators ran for 5 hours completely on emergency power—and the most impressive part—without it affecting patient care. Surgeries and other patient care activities continued without any hiccups.

Tom Davin explains how the automatic transfer switches work, which initiate the backup generators when the power goes out.

As a whole the engineering team works to meet the needs of patients and visitors. For Randy Jenkins, assistant director of Engineering Services, the most rewarding part of his job are the football Saturdays and seeing the Wave. “When the Wave first started, we added more outlets in the children’s Press Box on Level 12 to plug in more medical equipment up there. Knowing that we helped more patients and families experience the Wave, that was an emotional day,” he says.

Sustainability efforts

Saving energy and remaining sustainable has been a high priority for the hospital, and the Electric Shop is no exception. Some of the Electric Shop’s sustainability efforts have included converting and recycling the 660 lightbulbs the hospital goes through a month and replacing them with LED light bulbs for energy savings.

They’ve also installed variable frequency drives that adjust air handling flow based on energy demands, as well as some occupancy lighting sensors in waiting rooms to save power. And as part of a rebate program that MidAmerican has with the university, the Electric Shop receives rebate money for energy saving updates, which they use to purchase more energy-efficient equipment.

About Engineering Services

This week, Oct. 20 to 26, is Engineering Services Week, recognizing the hard work that our Engineering Services teams do to keep this place running.

Read more about just some of our Engineering Services staff members at UI Hospitals & Clinics:

1 comment

  1. What would we do without our Electrical Shop team? Not much!
    I was so impressed with the rapid response of this whole team during the power outage in 2017!
    We had them speak at our Schwartz rounds about this power outage and I learned so much from them. I now always carry a small flash light and make sure my cell phone is always charged!
    Thanks for all you do to keep us save and up and running!!

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