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In September 2006, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations issued an alert that urges healthcare organizations to pay special attention to how emergency power systems can fail and recommends specific steps to keep patients safe in the event of a disaster or other major events that knock out the organization's electrical power supply. This alert brings the reality of these risks to the attention of the nation's healthcare organizations and offers practical solutions to avoiding adverse patient care events in the event of electrical power failure. To reduce risks to patients created by power failures, the Joint Commission's Sentinel Event Alert recommends that healthcare organizations take the following specific steps:


1. Match the critical equipment and systems needed in an extended emergency against the equipment and systems actually on the emergency power system.


2. Inventory emergency power systems and the loads they serve.


3. Provide training for, and test, those who operate and maintain the emergency power supply system.


4. Ensure that generator fuel is available and usable.


5. Assure that the organization management and clinical leaders know how long emergency power will be available and what locations within the facility will and will not have emergency power in the event of an electrical outage.


6. Establish contingency plans for doctors and other caregivers to follow during losses of electrical power.



For more information, visit the Joint Commission International Center for Patient Safety's free online database of practice and interventions to prevent adverse events at You may also contact Charlene D. Hill, Media Relations Manager, at


The best initial cervical cancer-screening tool for younger women is still the traditional Papanicolaou test. However, a large Danish study has found that for older women (age 40 years and older), a test for human papillomavirus (HPV) is a much more effective way to screen for potential cancer. The reason, report researchers in the November 1 issue of Cancer Research, is that HPV infection is both frequent and transient in younger women, and they would often test positive for HPV when no actual risk of cervical cancer existed. However, in older women, HPV infection is rarer and more persistent, putting a woman at substantial risk for the disease before changes in cervical cells, detected by Papanicolaou tests, are obvious. The researchers specifically found that the absolute risk of developing cervical cancer in an older woman who tests positive for HPV is greater than 20% within a 10-year period. They also note that most women who test positive for HPV also test negative on a Papanicolaou test given at the same time. Clinicians may find it beneficial to screen younger women with a Papanicolaou test and follow-up on positive results at a given level with an HPV test and offer HPV testing to older women as a stand-alone screening test or in conjunction with a Papanicolaou test. For more information, please contact or