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Smoke disrupts medical, care facilities

September 27, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Electrical malfunctions that shorted out power and generated smoke, first at a Hagerstown area medical center and moments later at an assisted living facility across the road Thursday afternoon, were linked, an Allegheny Power spokesman said.

With firefighters monitoring the safety of physicians, staff and patients during ongoing surgical procedures, approximately 300 other employees at Robinwood Medical Center at 11110 Medical Campus Road, were evacuated until the problem was corrected about an hour later.

Most of those evacuated huddled outside under an awning or sat in their cars, trying to stay out of the rain, Funkstown Fire Co. Lt. Glenn Fuscsick said.

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At The Village at Robinwood, at 19800 Tranquility Circle, residents were moved from one wing into another after the same malfunction shorted out the air-conditioning system and produced smoke there, Fuscsick said.

The first sign anything was wrong at Robinwood was when the lights went out in about 2/3 of the complex at around 12:30 p.m.

"The emergency generators kicked in within 30 seconds," said Mike Zampelli, vice president of Antietam Health Services, who was in the building at the time. "The alarm was triggered and the automatic dialer reported the problem."

Zampelli was pleased that no one was hurt and that emergency procedures went as planned. "This is why we have those periodic evacuation drills," he said.

Allen Staggers, spokesman for Allegheny Power, said a fuse went out in the three-phase electrical service at Robinwood, leaving only one phase to carry the heavy electrical load of that complex.

"That quickly caused overheating," disrupting the power, Staggers said.

Smoke was detected in the surgical and imaging suites where physicians, patients and staff were involved in ongoing medical procedures, Fuscsick said.

"We were carefully monitoring while the medical staff and patients stayed and finished those procedures," Fuscsick said.

The Village at Robinwood and Robinwood Medical Center are served by the same feeder line, Staggers said. "Same problem, same result," he said.

Allegheny employees responded promptly to the scene and checked all of the company's equipment. "We still don't know what caused the problem," Staggers said Thursday night, noting that workers weren't able to find a malfunction in the utility's equipment.

Funkstown firefighters hadn't arrived at Robinwood Medical Center before the second call went out for The Village at Robinwood, Fuscsick said.

In addition to Funkstown, personnel at both incidents included Junior and Pioneer Hook and Ladder, Halfway, Mount Aetna, Long Meadow, Boonsboro, and ambulances from Community Rescue Service and Smithsburg.

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