by Julia Cheng
Despite CI’s best efforts, multiple power outages on campus have caused students stress in recent weeks. According to Assistant Vice President for Facilities Services, John Gormley, and Executive Director of Engineering Services, Thomas Hunt, the power outage on Saturday, Feb. 24, which lasted from approximately 7:10 p.m. until about 7:48 p.m., was related to a planned power outage by Southern California Edison (SCE).
Gormley and Hunt explained how CI uses two different power lines and the regular maintenance work being conducted by SCE is what shut off CI’s main power line. “What happened is that there was a mistake and we missed doing that transfer of power,” said Gormley.
“I understand if they’re doing maintenance or something but when we do have those random power outages, like during the Thomas Fires we had some in December, that was really scary and there were no plans or anything put in place.”
“We were going to do it manually, knowing that the automatic transfer wasn’t quite working yet,” Hunt continued to explain. “But the coordination didn’t happen properly and power was shut off on a 66 [kilovolt] line without us having already transitioned the campus power over to the backup line.”
Micaela Stoia, a junior majoring in Political Science, explained how the power outage on Feb. 24 affected her studies: “My laptop was dying and I was working on papers and doing research so I needed the resources then but if we were told in advance, I would have charged my laptop better… We’re not allowed to have candles or anything in housing so it was kind of hard to get around the dorm, especially ‘cause we didn’t want to go outside because it was cold.”
“Our mission is to ensure that the ongoing operation in support of the University’s mission stays as seamless as possible,” Gormley said. “We strive to continually provide that level of service and this incident that happened at the end of February is one that we’ve done a lessons-learned on and are adjusting our procedures to ensure that we don’t have a repeat of that.”
On Tuesday, March 13, there were two more power outages in Town Center from about 6-8 a.m. and 1-3 p.m., according to student Ty Danet.
Scott Slocum, a student majoring in Computer Science who lives off campus but works in the John Spoor Broome Library for Technology Innovations, talked about how power outages affect him: “For my job, being in IT, everything requires power and I have friends who live in the dorms and when the power went out [on Tuesday], they couldn’t do their essays.”
According to Gormley, the planned power outage scheduled for Friday, March 30 from 7-10 a.m. will allow Facilities Services to work on the auto-transfer switchover system. This new switchover system will enable the secondary backup power line to replace the main power line or the three electrical generators on campus to power the CI grid if both power lines are not working, similar to what happened during the Thomas Fire power outage.
“I understand if they’re doing maintenance or something but when we do have those random power outages, like during the Thomas Fires we had some in December, that was really scary and there were no plans or anything put in place,” said Stoia. “But when it’s being told to us, like ‘Oh yeah, there’s going to be a power outage on Saturday for a couple hours,’ that’s not a big deal, we can handle that.”
Facilities Services hopes to have the auto-transfer switchover system finalized soon so that student’s homework and work will no longer be interrupted by unscheduled power outages.