Keeping Virginia’s Seniors Safe, Warm, And Out Of The Dark

Residents in assisted living facilities in the Commonwealth of Virginia will have greater assurances of uninterrupted electrical power in the event of loss of grid electricity from natural disasters or other events thanks to a newly enacted law. Senate Bill No. 1077, introduced by Sen. Howell and signed by Gov. Ralph Northam, requires all assisted living facilities in Virginia to install and maintain adequately sized emergency generators or have the capability to accept mobile generators.

“Sufficient uninterrupted electrical power for the operation of lighting, ventilation, temperature control, supplied oxygen, and refrigeration is essential to the health and safety of residents in Virginia’s 575 registered assisted living facilities,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum. “Whether power is out for a few minutes, a few hours, or a few days, these critical systems need 100 percent uptime.”

In recent years, Virginia has suffered a range of weather-related disasters including coastal storms and hurricanes as well as grid outages in the Piedmont and Northern Virginia region from ice-related events. Last year, 500,000 Hampton Roads residents and businesses lost power due to a powerful windstorm, while Tropical Storm Michael knocked out power to 107 localities in October 2018. These are just a few of the many severe weather events that threaten stability of the electrical supply system.

“Thanks to SB 1077, residents in assisted living facilities in the Commonwealth can rest assured that the mission-critical and life-saving equipment at their facility will function in the event of a grid power outage,” said Schaeffer. “This new legislation enhances safety for residents in assisted living facilities by ensuring that on-site back-up power generator systems are properly sized, tested and maintained to ensure optimum states of readiness. It also requires a greater commitment from facilities to contingency planning, making sure the right contracts are in place with equipment dealers and rental agencies to provide the mobile power systems and switchgear necessary to ensure uninterrupted power for facilities without on-site units.”

emergency generators
(Photo: Diesel Technology Forum)

Diesel-powered back-up generators are expected to play a predominant role, as they are the technology of choice for critical-care facilities. Diesel generators offer an unmatched combination of reliability, rapid response time, and ability to carry full loads within 10 seconds of a power outage. The technology can be sized for any application, can be fully portable with self-contained fuel storage, and does not rely on infrastructure that could be disrupted as a result of a natural disaster. New units also achieve a near-zero level of emissions in testing and operation, an additional important consideration for assisted living facilities. Like any life-safety system, proper design, planning and installation, as well as regular servicing and testing, are essential aspects of protecting public health and safety. Engine and equipment dealers are experienced partners for assisted living facilities, with remote monitoring and other advanced technologies now available to further enhance system readiness.

Virginia and other states along the mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions are taking proactive steps as part of their climate resilience and disaster preparedness planning to install stationary and mobile generators powered by diesel for a full range of life-safety functions as well as including the use of these units to power retail fuel locations ensuring evacuees and first responders can refuel vehicles and equipment in the event of a grid power outage.