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Magic behind the walls

Facilities team keep Madigan humming

Lenny Coffey prepares to perform maintenance work on an automated guided vehicle that is used to transport items beneath Madigan Army Medical Center. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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Lenny Coffey beamed as he stood in a small space underneath the Madigan Army Medical Center and talked about the five 16-cylinder generators he and his team maintain.

"These can generate 5.5 million watts of power in case of an emergency," he said. "The last time there was a power outage, we had power back up in 7.8 seconds."

Coffey continued by saying the generators are tested regularly during the peak hours of electrical need by the hospital.

"We test at the highest demand for power, between 6 and 11 a.m., and we can handle the load," he assured.

Coffey and his team are part of a 90-person unit that has the responsibility of keeping Madigan operating at peak efficiency.

"It is a small city here," said Mike Carico, the director of the facilities management division.

This municipality exists beneath Madigan and behind its walls.

"Our mission is to ensure this is a safe environment for the patients, staff and visitors," he said.

The division maintains almost 70 structures on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and the work involves mechanical, electrical and air conditioning to structural and grounds maintenance issues.

"It's a team here," Carico emphasized, "and we work as one."

The well-trained team is rarely seen but works 24/7 to ensure that Madigan provides the best in medical service.

An AGV, or automatic guided vehicle, glided quietly to a stop.

"We have twenty-three of these," commented Wayne Dawson, an electric industrial controls mechanic, as he stood in the clean and cavernous crawl space under Madigan. "These are classics; they came with the building when it first opened."

Each rectangular-shaped robotic vehicle weighs 1,100 pounds, operates 24/7, measures about four-and-a-half feet in length by two-and-a-half feet in width, and moves 500 to 550 carts per day at one meter per second throughout the space.

"Linens, supplies, records, trash - it all comes via these carts moved on the AGVs," Dawson added.

All of this occurs in order to complete the mission of care with compassion.

Between each of the eight stories that comprise parts of Madigan, there are eight-foot high areas called "interstitial" spaces.

In these spaces is a universe of wires and pipes that make up the internal infrastructure of air, water, electrical power, plumbing and other mechanics.

"The interstitial spaces give us access to work without disturbing patients," continued Carico. "When we're not working under the building, we can work between the floors."

Not far away in the Engineered Smoke Control System room, Jeff Morehead kept an eye on several large wall screens showing water temperature, air temperature and energy consumption throughout Madigan.

"It's a bit like the eyes and ears here," commented Morehead.  "We can interface with all parts of the hospital to control the environment as well as monitor for any problems."

Carico smiled.

"If you enter the Madigan Army Medical Center, there are no fears due to the infrastructure of the facility," he said. "We take care of everything behind the walls."

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