‘Smoke Event’ at DHMC Knocks Out Power; Many Systems Still Down

Lebanon — A “smoke event” at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center early this morning knocked out the hospital’s electrical systems for several hours. No one was injured and no patients were in danger, hospital spokesman Mike Barwell said.

The hospital diverted all incoming patients to other hospitals until about noon, and is still accepting only patients with the highest level of need.

The incident occurred at about 6 a.m. when an electrical component overheated in the power transformer system, which handles the electrical power coming into the hospital from the outside.

“There was some smoke,” Barwell said, but no significant fire.

The Lebanon Fire Department responded, determined the overheating was contained to one switch in a large mechanical room on Level 2, and brought the situation under control “pretty quickly,” Chief Chris Christopoulos said.

“It was a very small incident from our perspective, but very complex for the hospital,” Christopoulos said.

A few patients and staff members were moved away from areas affected by the electrical odor, but no evacuation was ordered, Christopoulos said.

Power was restored by about 9 a.m., but many systems that depend on electricity, including patient records, data systems, paging and email, were down throughout the afternoon. Clinical equipment, such as that used to perform CT scans and MRI tests, along with emergency room equipment and air quality systems that depend on “clean power” are down as well as hospital technicians assess the damage, determine the best way to restore power, and then decide which systems to bring back online first, Barwell said.

It could be 9 p.m. before most of the systems are back up and running.

Scheduled appointments and other community activities should continue as planned, Barwell said.

Look for an updated version of this story in the Sunday Valley News.

Ernie Kohlsaat can be reached at 603-727-3302 or ekohlsaat@vnews.com.