News and Information

March 15, 2011

Franciscan Donation Will Help Island Community During Power Outages

Franciscan Health System has donated a large emergency-power generator to the community of Vashon Island, Wash. so residents can have a safe, warm, lighted building in which to seek shelter when Mother Nature knocks out electricity to homes and businesses in the area.

The 350-kilowatt unit holds 500 gallons of diesel fuel, enabling it to generate electrical power for several hours. Manufactured by Onan, the generator is equipped with an automatic transfer switch that turns on the diesel-powered unit when normal electrical service is interrupted windstorms, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

"We are grateful to Franciscan Health System for this much-needed equipment," said Chief Hank Lipe of Vashon Fire and Rescue. "It will afford us the ability to provide a fully powered and functional 24-hour, life-sustaining shelter for Vashon in case of a damaging earthquake or other major disaster."

He is working with representatives of the Vashon School District to determine which local school would be the best fit for the generator. "We are currently looking at Chautauqua Elementary School, which meets seismic safety standards for the hook up, but the decision has yet to be finalized," Lipe said.

Homes, businesses and public buildings on Vashon Island darkened abruptly Nov. 22, 2010 after a bitterly cold snowstorm, combined with high winds, cut off electricity to the entire island. Many homes and business were without power for up to four days.

"We are pleased to donate this potentially lifesaving equipment to a community recently gripped by a winter storm that caused a dangerous power outage," said Franciscan Foundation President Jon Flora, a resident of Vashon. "That major event dramatically proved the need for a designated emergency shelter. This powerful generator will help the community’s leaders to establish such a place of safety for the island’s 11,000 residents."

The generator is about 25 feet long, 10 feet tall and eight feet wide, with an estimated value of $50,000. For the past seven years, it had been on the campus of Franciscan’s Enumclaw Regional Hospital. That aging facility closed on Feb. 2 when Franciscan opened St. Elizabeth Hospital in Enumclaw.

"Enumclaw knows what is like to become isolated very quickly because of weather changes, so we completely understand the challenges Vashon has as an island community," said St. Elizabeth Hospital President Dennis Popp. "Everyone at St. Elizabeth is pleased that it was possible for us to help the people of Vashon in such a meaningful way."

In all, Franciscan Health System has donated three emergency-power generators from its former Enumclaw hospital. The other units have been accepted by the cities of Enumclaw and Buckley. Equipment from the old hospital’s kitchen was given to the City of Buckley for use at the Buckley Hall community center.

Environmentally safe demolition of the old hospital building is underway, with as much as 95 percent of the structural material and contents destined for recycling.

Protecting the environment was a guiding principle at St. Elizabeth Hospital. It was designed and constructed to meet specific standards of the U.S. Green Building Council. As a result, the new Franciscan Health System facility could become the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified hospital in Washington. Additionally, design features at St. Elizabeth – such as large windows that allow in plenty of natural light – harness the power of nature to enhance the hospital’s setting for healing mind, body and spirit.

On Feb. 11 and 12, several hundred Franciscan employees and members of the general public turned out for a "garage" sale at the old hospital, where they purchased chairs, mirrors, clocks, tables, desks, plants, a flagpole and numerous other items. The event generated about $17,500 for a special fund used to purchase artwork and other amenities at St. Elizabeth Hospital.

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