Generator failure in NYC shows you can’t plan for everything

bucketby marc falardeau

Hurricane Sandy: Backup generators fail at major New York hospitals –
[Via Computerworld]

Devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy forced at least two major hospitals and a data center in lower Manhattan to resort to backup generators fueled by diesel for power.

In these cases the backup processes failed.

In two of the outages, bucket brigades were formed to carry diesel fuel up many flights of stairs to feed generators. At the two hospitals, hundreds of people, including patients in critical condition and mothers with newborn babies, had to be evacuated.

One of the more ironic cases occurred at Bellevue Hospital, located along the East River in lower Manhattan, where excessive water caused a backup pumping system to fail even though it had been sealed to protect against flooding.


The hospital actually had what should have been a good plan. The generators were well above any water level. The diesel fuel was kept in watertight containers with pumps to move the fuel up to the generators.

The pumps were “encased with submarine doors that had rubber gaskets.” They should have kept the water out but somehow water got into the pumps and shorted them out.

The hospital did everything right and still had a problem. That is what happens with complex events. You cannot plan for everything.

The best laid plans. God to have but also to have adaptability and redundant processes.

This the 17 story bucket brigardes.