URBANA – Local hospitals and Willard Airport all have electrical power backup plans, as required by law.
Generators would kick in within seconds after a blackout at Carle Foundation Hospital and Provena Covenant Medical Center, both in Urbana, and Provena United Samaritans Medical Center in Danville.
Airports, such as Willard, have been required to keep landing lights and other facilities equipped with backup systems since World War II.
Not all of Carle's systems, such as air-conditioners, will work on generators, but lights and equipment in the operating and emergency rooms are plugged into special outlets that provide continuous power wherever necessary, Carle spokeswoman Gretchen Robbins said.
Hospitals are required to test the systems weekly, said Larry Mellenthin, the director of facilities at Covenant.
The University of Illinois was put to the test in the cold January of 2001 when its Abbott Power Plant failed.
The coal-slurry plant serves about two-thirds of the UI electricity needs, while Illinois Power supplies the other third.
"One of the trickiest things," UI spokesman Bill Murphy recalled, "was that we weren't able to communicate with our own people, since most communications are electronic."
A manager's manual typewriter, a fax machine in an office that remained lit up and the cooperation of local radio stations helped direct students to dining halls still open and tell employees which offices were open, Murphy said.
The blackout started on a Friday, and it was Monday before the UI was 100 percent restored.
The UI has backup generators, Murphy said, but he was not able to describe the system in detail because of concerns about terrorism.
There are similar concerns about describing emergency plans at Willard.
But Airport Manager Joe Attwood said that during World War II, legislation required emergency lighting for the benefit of pilots.
In decades since, airports have been required to expand the backup lighting to benefit consumers as well, and the passenger terminal is backed up.
You can reach Paul Wood at (217) 351-5203 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.