What are the Requirements for Hospital Backup Generators?

Backup Generators for Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities

Natural and human-made disasters can strike anywhere, with or without warning, causing power outages. In many natural disasters, these power-impacting events can also lead to an increased demand for medical attention for nearby individuals who sustained injuries. As a result, hospitals and medical facilities can’t rely on the main power grid alone to provide their electricity.

To meet the needs of existing and future patients, healthcare facilities require a reliable backup power supply. Essentially, every second without power could cost patients dearly — in a blackout, doctors, nurses and other staff can’t access equipment that are used to treat patients. Therefore, hospitals typically require backup generators that respond quickly to outages to minimize time without power.

What Happens When a Hospital Loses Power?

If a hospital loses power, it can severely impact the health and well-being of patients. For instance, patients in operating rooms, intensive care units (ICUs) and post-operation recovery areas need the support of electrical medical equipment to keep them stable. Without power, patients’ lives could be at risk, especially those on life support equipment.

Power outages also affect aspects like heating and cooling systems, security, lights, emergency signage and communications, which all require steady power sources. Plus, laboratory specimens such as blood, plasma and tissue samples need carefully controlled temperature storage. If a hospital loses power, it’ll quickly be at risk of losing these necessities. There are also certain medications that need to be stored at specific temperatures that can potentially spoil in the event of a power outage.

With such a high risk, hospital backup power such as a generator is critical for healthcare facilities. Backup generators and automatic transfer switches kick on within seconds of main power loss to maintain the hospital’s electricity until the main power is restored. Hospital backup power systems are heavily regulated to ensure facilities are adequately prepared for emergencies.

What Are the Requirements for Hospital Backup Generators?

Generally, the requirements for backup generators for hospitals and other healthcare facilities depend on the specific type of care they provide. For instance, generators that support equipment like ventilators have stricter regulations than units connected to the lighting. Therefore, hospitals need to have specific generators on hand to support their operations.

Hospital Emergency Power Requirements

In general, hospitals must have at least two sources of power. Usually, the first is the main power from electrical lines, and the second is a backup generator for powering necessary equipment. As a result, healthcare sites will ideally have enough backup power to support basic functions until the main electricity can run.

Code 110 from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides hospital emergency power requirements. This code indicates backup power to life-critical equipment must be restored within 10 seconds of disruption. NFPA 110 also classifies hospitals as critical facilities, which requires having enough fuel on-site to keep the emergency power system running for 96 hours. However, fuel capacity hours can vary depending on location and generator class.

What Are the Two Categories of Hospital Backup Generators?

There are two hospital battery backup or backup generator categories based on code requirements called NFPA 110 compliance, which is broken down into two main levels — Level 1 and Level 2. These two systems relate to the degree of importance of the generators in protecting human life.

Level 1 generator systems are mandatory if a facility losing its main power could cost people their lives. These generators typically help power life support systems and other vital hospital equipment. Most hospitals fall under this category, especially those specializing in certain areas, like cancer.

Alternatively, Level 2 generators may have nothing to do with keeping patients alive. These systems may operate lighting and other features that are important to the hospital’s overall operations — but staff could ultimately make do without them if necessary.

What Do Hospital Generators Operate?

Alongside powering life-critical equipment that keeps patients stable, hospital generators have various functions that help run the facility as a whole. Here’s a look at the specific parts of hospital power systems that generators support.

1. Life Support Equipment

Patients in ICUs depend on life support equipment to keep them alive. Power outages could be a matter of life or death for them. Maintaining backup power protects these individuals from severe complications from having their life support shut off. This may also include equipment that is required for operating as well for situations where emergency medical treatment is required. Backup generators are a key component of providing consistent patient treatment, whether the facility needs to use them or not.

2. Medical Supply and Vaccine Refrigeration

Many medical supplies require refrigeration to maintain their safety and stability. For instance, a medical storage facility may have vaccines, blood, insulin, tissues, plasma, organs or intravenous (IV) drips in refrigeration. If the facility loses power, a backup generator must turn on to prevent the refrigeration unit from raising the storage temperature of the medical supplies.

If the temperature exceeds a specific level for a certain amount of time, which varies between vaccines and supplies, the hospital must discard the supplies. Protecting the refrigeration units and storing supplies at required temperatures can ensure the facility has everything it needs to continue treating the patients in its care.

3. Medical Equipment

Much of the equipment used in hospitals requires power. For instance, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), X-ray machines, testing machines to determine proper diagnosis and monitoring devices for patient vitals need power to operate. Power outages can severely damage some of these machines, costing the facility thousands of dollars to repair or replace the units. Plus, hospitals won’t be able to offer patient care with these damaged devices until repairs are complete.

Backup power for hospitals or other healthcare facilities can prevent expensive damage to state-of-the-art equipment and keep the facility’s diagnostic tools operating as they should.

4. Surgical Equipment

Surgical equipment, such as operating room lights, ventilators, heart monitors or heart-lung machines, require constant power. Keeping equipment used in surgery functioning protects patients and allows surgeons to continue their procedures without interruption. In some instances, such as organ transplants, time is of the essence for the success of the procedure. Therefore, backup generators that prevent lost time due to electrical outages can prevent surgical complications.

5. Occupational Safety

Another reason hospitals have backup generators is for occupational safety. By powering the lights in the facility, building occupants will be less likely to encounter the dangers of dimly lit hallways, operating rooms or patient care rooms. Keeping the hospital well-lit prevents accidents that could put additional strain on the facility.

6. Facility Power

Facility power must continue functioning in an outage because it keeps building occupants safe and comfortable. For example, heating and cooling systems keep temperatures and humidity regulated. Similarly, elevators and escalators also use facility power. Generators for hospitals keep the facility operating normally with as little interruption as possible.

7. Electronic Medical Records

Cloud-based data storage of patient information and electronic medical records removes the need to store data on individual computers or in filing cabinets. However, the downside of this system is the need to keep computers and on-site servers powered. Computers must have electricity to ensure access to critical patient care files and vital communications between healthcare providers at different facilities. In an electricity outage, generators can keep these systems running, reducing the impact on patient care caused by a loss of main power.

8. Security Systems

Security systems protect hospital facilities from unauthorized access to sensitive areas. For instance, the access control system that unlocks doors for authorized personnel to enter laboratories, operating rooms and offices that store sensitive patient information needs power. A hospital battery backup source provides the power needed to keep the facility secure.

Selecting a Backup Generator for a Hospital

Selecting backup generators for hospitals can be challenging, as you must consider numerous factors to ensure you select an effective unit for your facility. From the size to the fuel type, here are some things to think about when choosing a generator for hospital use.

Generator Size and Requirements

Calculating the power needs for a medical facility isn’t as straightforward as the math for other types of sites. Daily operations are part of the requirements for the generator’s power. However, you’ll also need to factor in the additional power requirements for treating extra patients in an emergency.

Though several resources exist to calculate the needs of hospital power systems, accuracy in the calculation is critical to ensuring patient safety. There are many factors that come into play when calculating generator size requirements, such as what equipment needs to be powered regularly as well as equipment that may be required during an emergency. This could also include total equipment used by the hospital and may need to be factored into calculating requirements. Therefore, confirm any calculations you make with an expert in generator sizing. One option that we highly recommend is to work directly with a generator dealer to ensure your hospital backup power system will meet your facility’s needs, even in times of higher power requirements.

Generator Fuel Source

Backup generators for hospitals typically use one of two main types of fuel — diesel or natural gas. Both fuel types have advantages and disadvantages the healthcare industry must weigh before choosing the best option.

Diesel Generators

Diesel generators are highly versatile and sturdy, which make them a great choice for hospitals. While they still need maintenance to stay in good condition over time, diesel generators generally need less frequent maintenance, making them a bit easier to manage for busy hospitals. A diesel generator for hospital backup is extremely robust and can power a high volume of equipment. These generators are also highly efficient, especially in terms of fuel consumption. When it comes to fuel efficiency, diesel generator are known to be a popular choice due to the high amount of energy produced by diesel fuel when it is consumed.

As the name suggests, diesel generators run on diesel fuel, requiring hospitals to have fuel storage for emergencies. Typically, facilities use delivery trucks to refill their diesel storage. However, fuel delivery depends on open roads for delivery trucks. To avoid road closures impeding your fuel delivery in an emergency, install external diesel fuel tanks on-site and relocate them to the generator room as needed.

While this can be an option for some facilities, diesel can only sit in a storage tank for possibly up to two years before going bad and becoming unusable. Hospitals need their generator fuel to be ready to use at any time in case of an emergency. Regular fuel testing and treatments can help keep diesel fuel in good, usable condition, though you’ll have to remember to replace the fuel if it sits too long without use.

Natural Gas Generators

Natural gas generators offer several benefits over diesel generators and can also be consideredd a sound solution for hospital backup power. They typically have a quieter operation, burn cleaner and connect to the main gas utility. Therefore, your facility doesn’t need separate fuel storage, and access to fuel in an emergency may be easier. However, these units require more regular maintenance compared to diesel generators, and during situations of emergency such as natural disasters where the main gas utility may be shut off – a loss of local gas supply will stop the operation of these units.

One way to potentially combat this is by looking to see whether or not your natural gas generator can use a conversion kit. A conversion kit allows your natural gas generator to run on propane, also known as liquid petroleum gas (LPG). To ensure constant power during a power outage with a natural gas generator, ensure you have a conversion kit and ready supply of propane on hand.

Generator Locations

The location of a hospital generator is critical to ensuring maintenance staff can access it for testing and inspections. Ideally, the generator should have protection from the elements. Most hospitals designate a specific room for their generators. Therefore, when finding a location for these units, consider the following requirements for the generator room:

  • Adherence to local building, fire, emissions and zoning codes
  • Vibration reduction to protect nearby areas when the generator runs
  • Accessibility to trained staff and protection from unauthorized access
  • Ventilation for the generator and proper airflow to prevent overheating or exhaust buildup
  • Sound attenuation to protect surrounding areas from the noise of the operating generator

Automatic Switches for Healthcare Facilities

To ensure your generator powers on without having a staff member manually turn on the generators, which would surpass the required time constraint of 10 seconds, you need to equip each generator with an automatic transfer switch (ATS). These switches are prompted to turn on the generator when they detect an outage from the main power grid. Then, when the main power returns, these switches turn off the generators. In a hospital or healthcare facility, this switch is essential for meeting standards and protecting lives.

Multiple Generators for Large Facilities

To maintain power for a large campus, a single generator won’t suffice. Using multiple generators for a facility increases redundancy to ensure power even if one of the generators fails. Plus, the additional generators allow for greater flexibility and generator alternating. For instance, you can have one unit running while the other is off, or you can have separate generators to add or reduce power loads as needed without running a larger unit.

For large facilities that use multiple sources of power, parallel switchgear allows for the addition or subtraction of generator units to meet the facility’s power needs. Plus, parallel switchgear permits two generators to start up at once within the 10-second requirement to offer faster response to power outages even when these generators are connected separately.

Does a Healthcare Facility Need a Portable Generator?

There may be situations where hospitals are at capacity and won’t be able to handle the influx of all the patients due to a disaster or catastrophe. In these cases, there may be spillover facilities known as field hospitals, which are usually pop-up centers or facilities that have been converted to handle the extra patients.

Portable generator rentals are a robust solution to power equipment in these field hospitals. Since field hospitals are usually detached from the main power grid due to location, a portable generator creates the necessary power on-site to help run key medical equipment that may be required for life-saving procedures.

Also, with portable generator rentals, the rental company maintains and tests the generator. However, if your facility purchases a commercial portable generator, you’ll have to keep up with maintenance and testing as you would with your permanently installed units.

Generator Testing and Maintenance Requirements

Several safety and maintenance codes are in place to ensure generator units are used properly in certain situations. The NFPA has numerous generator regulations to guide safe generator use across various industries. Healthcare facilities with backup generators should primarily focus on the following three NFPA codes:

  • NFPA 99: Under this code, generators are in the essential electrical system (EES), including hospital backup generators and existing electrical components. There are three types of EES, and hospitals must meet Type 1 requirements.
  • NFPA 101: This code includes standards for generators at facilities where patients are on life support. For example, some of the NFPA 101 legal requirements include maintaining batteries, having qualified personnel perform maintenance and repairs, and regularly testing and inspecting the generator and its circuitry. NFPA 101 also outlines how to conduct maintenance and other necessary qualifications.
  • NFPA 110: Under this code, generators are categorized as an emergency power supply system (EPSS). The EPSS includes everything in the electrical system, such as transfer switches, protective devices and conductors. NFPA 110 classifies backup generators based on class, type and level, determining the applications for which a generator would be best suited. This code also highlights guidelines for routine maintenance and installation considerations.

It should be noted that NFPA 101 and NFPA 110 closely align with each other. NFPA 101 offers more basic guidelines for hospital generators, while NFPA 110 is a more heightened safety code. Understanding the differences between these codes is essential to ensure your facility complies with all necessary safety and maintenance codes.

Testing and Maintenance

All hospital backup generators must undergo routine maintenance and testing, including the following:

  • Standards: Perform testing operations per performance guidelines.
  • Manuals: The hospital must keep two copies of generator manuals on-site.
  • Personnel: Only qualified personnel should conduct maintenance and testing.
  • Tools: Keep proper tools on-site for generator maintenance.
  • Inspections: Conduct inspections once a week.
  • Testing: Testing should occur monthly.

Emergency Power Standards

Backup generators in hospitals must meet strict response times. To minimize life-critical machines from experiencing prolonged downtime, backup power supplies must activate in less than 10 seconds. Additionally, the generator must have enough fuel to run for 96 hours to ensure it’s prepared for lengthy power outages. Keeping up with testing, maintenance and inspections helps keep patients and employees safe in an outage.

How to Prepare Your Generator for an Emergency


Be prepared for power outages through regular maintenance and attention to your facility’s backup generators. By adhering to required standards, inspecting the unit, regularly testing it and ensuring it has adequate fuel, you can better rely on the unit functioning as needed in an emergency outage.

1. Meet All Necessary Standards

Ensure the generator meets all required standards for the type of healthcare facility it powers. This way, you follow generator laws, avoid lawsuits and maintain a safe environment for patients and staff.

2. Perform Weekly Inspections

Once a week, inspect the generator. Doing so ensures trained staff can identify issues. Therefore, they can conduct any necessary repairs before the generator requires operation.

3. Conduct Monthly Tests

Weekly inspections won’t necessarily test the function of the generator. Monthly tests verify the unit runs as designed. Doing operation tests once a month identifies issues that weekly inspections may miss.

4. Train Facility Staff

Train all staff who must inspect, test, repair or maintain the generator. Adequate training ensures your facility has people who know what they’re doing verify the operation of the generator and keep it ready for an emergency.

5. Position Generators Carefully

Avoid keeping generators in hospital basements or on the roof. It’s best to keep generators in weatherproof enclosures to limit exposure to the elements. Additionally, limit generator access to authorized personnel to prevent equipment tampering or damage.

6. Have Sufficient Fuel

Ensure an adequate fuel supply. Natural gas generators are popular due to their ability to connect to the facility’s natural gas supply lines. However, in a disaster that may disrupt this supply, such generators won’t operate. While diesel generators are effective backup solutions, they require more equipment and maintenance to ensure they’ll turn on and run when needed.

Contact Us About Backup Generators for Your Healthcare Facility

Power outages in emergency rooms and hospitals endanger life-saving operations. Navigating the generator installation or upgrade process can be challenging, so Woodstock Power Company is here to help.

We provide our customers with durable, cost-effective generator solutions for emergency backup and extra power in non-emergencies. Find out more by browsing our selection of generators, automatic transfer switches and other accessories for your healthcare facility’s power needs. With our experience, nationwide shipping and inventory of products for the high demands of our commercial and industrial customers, we like to say we’re the most powerful brand in the industry. When you work with us to fill your power needs, you’ll see why.

For additional questions and inquiries, contact us online, and our representatives will get in touch with you.

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