By KEVIN NEVERS
A power outage early this morning at Porter Portage Hospital Campus forced
the evacuation of three long-term critical care patients when an emergency
backup generator failed.
Portage Assistant Fire Chief Mike Bucy told the Chesterton Tribune today
that the three patients were transported “without compromise” to the
Intensive Care Unit at Porter Valparaiso Hospital Campus. Seven other
patients had been prioritized for evacuation but a crew from the Northern
Indiana Public Service Company had power restored before they could be
All 10 of the patients were receiving care on the third floor of the Portage
Hospital Campus in space used by Regency Health Care.
According to a statement released by Porter hospital just before deadline,
Portage Hospital Campus has two emergency backup generators, each of which
supplies power to 50 percent of the hospital and both of which successfully
activated when power was lost. One of them, however, “subsequently
overheated and went off line.”
“Today the systems at Portage Hospital Campus are functioning and the
malfunctioning generator is going to be replaced,” the statement said.
When exactly the outage occurred is unclear. Porter hospital put the time at
12:30 a.m., NIPSCO at 1:53 a.m., the Portage Fire Department says at around
2 a.m. Whenever it occurred, though, the blackout in the patient block of
the hospital was total, Bucy said, and a combination of pitch darkness and
high humidity caused by the failure of the emergency backup generator made
the evacuation difficult.
For one thing, Bucy said, the three patients were all on ventilators and had
to be kept flat and immobilized during their removal down two flights of
stairs. Firefighters ended up backboarding them, he said.
And though the South Haven Volunteer Fire Department responded to the scene
and was able to provide some portable emergency lighting, Bucy noted, its
firefighters could do nothing to ventilate a building which, in the absence
of working central air, became increasingly hot and stuffy. “It was thick in
there,” he said.
Power was restored to the hospital at 3:28 a.m., NIPSCO spokesman Jim Fitzer
said, and all evidence points to a lightning strike somewhere in the area of
the hospital as the cause of the outage. “We did get hit with some pretty
violent lightning over that way.”
Fitzer refused to speculate on why the hospital’s emergency backup generator
overheated. “It’s customer owned,” he noted. “It’s their piece of
In addition to assistance from the SHVFD, Bucy said, several other
departments went to standby status to back up the PFD. Porter EMS was on the
scene, he added, and Superior Ambulance made several ambulances available
for the evacuation.