Published: March 3, 2015
Power was discontinued at approximately 6:10 a.m. Wednesday when an electrical fault was detected in The University’s electrical distribution system, and power did not resume until approximately 10:15 a.m. The outage caused a compressed class schedule for the day.
Mark Murphy, director of sustainability, said in a phone interview that the fault occurred due to natural causes. He said he was happy the safety equipment “did what it was supposed to do (by) shutting certain things off in a controlled manner.” He said the staff of electricians was able to locate the fault in the underground system, which was by the alleyway next to the John J. Long Center, using a diagram of the underground system and a “logical process.”
“Probably within an hour we located where it was at, which is pretty good for a campus our size,” Murphy said.
The team included four electricians and two supervisors, Murphy said. According to him, the campus is roughly two and a half million gross square feet.
“Once I know that there’s a failure on campus, I have a high voltage specialist, another electrical contractor that I call immediately and tell them to come on campus so we’re prepared in case we have an issue,” Murphy said.
Murphy said three experts come to The University annually to run a three-day test that checks the safety equipment of the electrical distribution system by using ultrasonic and infrared scanning. The tests, which scan an inspection list of 101 items, are usually run before the Easter holiday, so any problems can be addressed when the campus is less busy, Murphy said.
That’s where the infrared scanning and the ultrasonic scanning picks up stuff that may not be a problem for years, but kind of gives us an insight into way ahead of time,” Murphy said. “And that’s been, for the last 26 years, proven to be invaluable to keep our system up and running.”
Tuesday was the first day of this year’s test; however, Murphy said Wednesday’s power outage was unrelated to the scans.
“It’s an energized visual – like a visual test – and they just scan, so they can’t touch anything,” he said.
He also said it is likely the test will continue despite the power outage Wednesday.
Murphy also explained how the power was able to resume relatively quickly.
“Because we have double feeders on campus, we were able to backfeed the place, so this way we were able to turn things back on and not be out of service for a much longer time,” Murphy said.
Two teams of electricians worked together, along with the control person who marked their progress, to turn the power back on about two buildings at a time, starting with The DeNaples Center around 9:30 a.m. for its food service. The Loyola Science Center was one of the later buildings to receive power because of its size.
Murphy also said issues with swipe access and printer connections are not necessarily electrical problems but occurred because systems had to reboot.
First-year Reyna Gaspard lives in Lynett Hall and uses a fan to keep her room cool while she sleeps. Gaspard saw that her hall was dark when she felt her fan turn off, but said the power outage did not affect her much.
“I was concerned though because I wasn’t sure if everything would be functioning everywhere else,” Gaspard said.
“A day like today everybody gets to have a better respect for what electricity does for us around here,” Murphy said.
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