When Lives May Depend on Cat Power

by Henry Vicary
Caterpillar Inc.

This partnership is just one example of how we’re all helping to power the Peoria area together.

When you wake up in the morning, you expect your alarm to go off, your phone to be charged and the bedroom lights to turn on. And when the unexpected happens, and the power is out, it’s inconvenient. Energy is something we can easily take for granted—and is usually something we don’t even think about… until it isn’t available.

While nothing seems more terrible than starting the day without a freshly brewed cup of coffee, what if the situation was a little more perilous than a rut in your morning routine: What if the power went out while you or a loved one were being treated at a hospital—or even having surgery?

This scenario was posed to me when I had the opportunity to visit with Bob Anderson, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center. OSF is a Caterpillar customer, and they use Cat generators for their emergency back-up power.

Caterpillar values our relationships with local businesses in the Peoria area, and as Guest and Community Relations Director, I meet with them frequently to discuss how we can continue to support each other. Like many of you reading this, I’ve been to OSF when a family member or I was sick, but I met with Anderson to learn more about this staple in our community and its energy needs.

OSF is the area's only Level 1 Trauma Center and the fourth largest medical center in Illinois, with 820 physicians and advanced practitioners, 5,800+ employees and 609 patient beds. They serve all types of patient care needs—from acute pediatrics and kidney transplants to advanced heart surgery—24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Anderson oversees all facility operations—a tall order, considering this very large campus has about 10 large buildings across more than 40 acres. “It’s like a little city in and of itself,” he explains.

Power at OSF
The campus has two energy centers—one serving the south and one the north side of Glen Oak Avenue, allowing some redundancy and focus on the different needs of each building. OSF has a total of seven Cat generators, which is technically two more than required as the medical center wants to be prepared should one of them fail for any reason.

“Our two energy centers are equipped with Cat generators designed to cut in and provide emergency power for life-saving medical care if we were to lose power,” Anderson told me. “Each center is provided power from different substations, so it takes multiple ‘failures’ for us to go onto emergency power—the generators will start immediately to provide ongoing power for critical patient care needs on our campus.”

So what are the generators responsible for powering if there were to be a power outage? Lighting is usually what first comes to mind; after all, that’s the first thing we notice in our homes. But there’s a lot more, Anderson explains. “Sure, there’s emergency lighting, but there’s a lot of other critical systems, like operating rooms. If someone is in the middle of a surgery, it must be able to continue.”

All patient rooms have emergency power for ventilators, IV pumps and other day-to-day needs for patients. And behind the scenes are critical things like the fire alarm system, elevators and HVAC system “to keep airflow going the right direction for infection control purposes,” Anderson says. “There’s a lot of things that don’t first come to mind, and we have to be proactive and ready at a moment’s notice with our generators.”

What else needs emergency power? Both pharmacies on the campus, which house life-saving drugs and vaccines that need to be temperature-controlled. Also their laboratory, which is responsible for blood supply and maintaining it at the proper temperature.

“When we lose power, our generators immediately kick on to full power in less than 10 seconds,” Anderson notes. “The campus can run solely off the generators for 87 hours before having to refuel.

“We really appreciate the reliability and longevity of those generators. We’ve had Cat for as long as I’ve been here, and that’s more than 30 years,” Anderson shared with me. “When you have a power failure, you can’t just hope the generators come on—they have to come on and work every time. Our surgeons, physicians, pharmacists, nurses and staff will be able to continue the important work they have to do if there’s a power outage.”


The patients and staff of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center rely on Cat® generators for emergency back-up power.

A Tremendous Partnership
Part of Cat’s value-add to customers is our tremendous dealer network, and the outstanding service OSF receives from Altorfer Cat is what makes the difference. “We reach out to our local partner and Cat dealer, Altorfer, to maintain our generators,” Anderson notes. “Altorfer also brings in additional capacity during construction projects with portable generators, so we can do necessary renovation and construction.” Right now, OSF is expanding one of its energy centers, and Altorfer is on the job.

Bob Metzinger, Vice President at Altorfer, is proud his team services the generators that the employees and patients of OSF depend on. “We hold the work we do for all of our customers to the highest standard, but especially that of OSF, as lives are literally depending on it.”

At Caterpillar, we want to see our equipment at work in every corner of the world making progress possible—but we especially want to see it at work in our home, in our own backyard. Altorfer’s world-class product support makes this happen.

“It’s important to OSF that we partner with those in our community, not just in providing medical care, but in how we work together on projects and resources we need,” Anderson said at the end of my visit.

It’s my sentiment as well. The partnership between OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, Altorfer Cat and Caterpillar on this project is just one example of how we’re all helping to power the Peoria area together.

Needless to say, the next time the power goes out, you don’t need to worry about your loved ones at OSF. They are receiving the care they need, down to that morning cup of coffee, thanks to Cat power. iBi

Henry Vicary is Guest and Community Relations Director at Caterpillar Inc.

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