Power outages due to preventative maintenance

Southern California Edison’s equipment replacements on the corner of Lynn Road and Wildwood Avenue were the cause of power outages in the Old and New West residence hall complexes last month.

On March 15 from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. and March 29 from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., power was cut to residence halls, the Financial Aid Office, the Employment Office and Ahmanson Science Center in addition to 350 residential customers. The science center ran on rented generators to prevent power-reliant experiments from failing.

“[Edison] is doing preventative maintenance and preventative repairs to their equipment and changing out old equipment for new equipment prior to the equipment actually failing,” Mark Jacobsen, director of facility management, said.

This replacement was of an entire underground concrete 10-foot-by-15-foot vault housing different electrical components such as cables, switches and transformers. The structure was found during a routine check last year to be unstable and in need of replacement.

“As part of our regular maintenance program, we go out and we periodically inspect all of our equipment, including the structures themselves. It was determined that this piece of equipment needed to be replaced, the entire structure,” Rudy Gonzales, an Edison public affairs manager, said. “Once we identify something that needs repaired or replaced, we try to do that on a planned proactive basis so that we can minimize any possibility of something happening unexpectedly.”

The replacement needed to be handled in phases to minimize impact and the likelihood of 24-hour outages. According to Gonzales, the first outage was for the disconnection of the old equipment with a rewiring to bypass the circuit. The second outage was for the actual replacements.

This caused a number of different issues for both facilities and campus safety. Action needed to be taken since doors with ID scanners were down. There was also a limited availability for emergency lights in hallways and experiments were reliant on power in the science center. The notice was sent several weeks in advance to allow for preparation.

“It affects a lot of people. Each time it is different with a different set of problems,” Jacobsen said.

For both nights, the science center ran on generator power for the cost of roughly $10,000 for the first night alone.

Facilities also took steps to ensure the safety for students by providing lamps and flashlights for resident assistants to pass out. Campus safety was also on constant patrol throughout buildings during the entirety of the outages.

The university attempted to make it more convenient and reschedule the work to coincide with spring break. However, plans were already in place with Tidwell Construction and subcontractor Hot Line Construction for work on those specific days. In addition, other Edison customers affected had been informed prior.

“We were going to try to reschedule it so it could be done during spring break, but to reschedule it would have had to require going back and reschedule the crews who were doing the work and re-notifying all of the 350 residential customers,” Paul Barnett, California Lutheran University’s Edison account manager, said.

It was also a hassle for resident assistants in the affected residence halls. They were tasked with preparing all of their students for the shutdown.

“The first one was a little last minute and sprung on us. They didn’t give us much of a heads up the first time. We kind of had to scramble,” Miguel Miguel, a junior resident assistant in West hall, said. “I feel like there might have been some miscommunication between facilities and Res Life. A lot of [students] were really upset.”

Some halls were prepared with warnings weeks in advance, but others were not, with a few days or less to organize.

“The RAs didn’t tell us until about a couple hours before,” Kayla Tucker, Potenburg resident and sophomore said. “Someone dropped the ball on our side. They probably could have sent out an email to all of us a couple weeks in advance.”

For more prepared halls, such as Old West, students and resident assistants alike enjoyed bonding moments. RA Stephanie Fallon and  senior resident assistant in Janss hall Tetteh Canacoo, developed a glow-in-the-dark program in the outage called Party in the Dark.

“With the second one, we just figured we’d make a program out of it,” Canacoo said. “Wouldn’t it be fun if we had a black-out party in the dark kind of program? And it just kind of happened.”

According to Canacoo, students were mostly positive about the outages. It was at a convenient time to not interrupt the normal school day.

The restoration is now completed with no further repairs needed on the equipment and no further outages are in Cal Lutheran’s near future.

Molly Strawn
Staff Writer
Published April 13th, 2016