Mount Auburn Hospital in West Cambridge. (Photo: Mount Auburn Hospital)

Mount Auburn Hospital lost power for about seven hours July 5, shutting its emergency room and raising questions about evacuation as temperatures began to rise inside, according to information sent to elected officials by the City Manager’s Office.

The power outage began at 11:30 a.m. July 5 at the campus at 330 Mount Auburn St., West Cambridge, kicking in backup power to support crucial life safety systems, according to the City Manager’s Office. A request for more information was made Sunday evening to hospital publicists after the city information became available.

Cambridge fire, police, the Electrical Department and Pro EMS all took part in a command post set up at the hospital, where plans for mass evacuation were considered – but evacuation “would take approximately a minimum of six hours to complete,” said Lee Gianetti, director of communications and community relations. “The most pressing issue [was] the lack of cooling to patients.”

Temperatures outside hit a high of 82 degrees and a low of 69, according to AccuWeather.

Eversource worked on providing a backup generator to power cooling systems while also trying to identify the cause of the problem; it would take at least three hours to restore power, Gianetti said. Power was back on by the time an all-clear email was sent at 6:44 p.m., though city resources stayed in place for 15 minutes to a half-hour afterward to ensure power was running stably.

“This episode does illustrate both how dependent we are on electricity and how the impacts of one problem can cascade in various problematic ways,” said city councillor Craig Kelley, chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee.

One of the other few emergency rooms in the area, at CHA Somerville Hospital, could be closed by the Cambridge Health Alliance in the spring of 2020. The board plans to vote Tuesday.


This post was updated July 15, 2019, to correct the date the outage occurred.

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