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How Maine Medical Center Prepares For Power Outages

Patty Wight
Maine Public
One of four backup generators at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

While hundreds of thousands in southern Maine lost power due to Sunday night’s storm, the state’s largest hospital was still up and running — but Maine Medical Center isn’t completely immune from power outages.

At any given time, Maine Medical Center cares for hundreds of patients. From moms giving birth to patients who need surgery and those with emergency health problems.

“Today, for instance, we have about 500 patients that are in the hospital, right now,” says spokeswoman Caroline Cornish.

Cornish says losing power is not an option. To guard against power outages, Maine Medical Center has four generators — and they’re not your average home-size generators.

They’re about twice as tall as an average adult.

“In terms of its length, we’re probably talking a good 15-20 feet long. It’s a sizable generator. And that’s again, one of four that we have here as backup power at the hospital,” Cornish says.

They’re tested once a month to make sure they’re ready to fire up at a moment’s notice. As for human power, Cornish says hospital leaders meet before each storm to determine specific needs, including whether temporary housing is needed for clinical staff so they can make it into work.

“And then we have an alert system, so if we do find that some people aren’t able to get here for whatever reason, we’re able to call in adequate staff,” she says, “because the most important thing for us is patient safety.”

The hospital makes plenty of contingency plans, Cornish says, because if there’s one thing you count on in Maine, it’s extreme weather.