Power Outages at Smith
During the last 90 days the Smith
College campus has experienced four relatively significant
power outages ranging in duration from approximately 20 minutes
to three and a half hours. Each of these outages originated
off campus in the distribution network of our local utility
(National Grid) affecting other local homes and businesses
and in no way caused by or associated with any failures internal
to the campus. Prior to these incidents total campus disruptions
over the last decade have been limited to a few isolated and
occasional momentary disruptions, none of which lasted more
than a few minutes.
During the last year, National
Grid has been performing a substantial upgrade to their substation
that serves the Smith Campus and surrounding portions of the
city. When complete it will provide several independent lines
carrying power to the area and new computerized switching
and load protection. System failures will be automatically
sensed and power automatically rerouted around damaged equipment
and or lines. Unfortunately it appears that during the project
some of the back up lines to the area have been reduced or
temporarily eliminated, a situation that seems to be contributing
to these more frequent outages.
Most buildings on our campus
are served by generators that provide emergency power to life
safety equipment and are also designed to provide enough emergency
lighting to accomplish a safe and orderly evacuation if required.
A few buildings on campus are not served by generators and
use battery powered emergency lights designed to operate for
approximately two hours. Some critical operations, such as
the plant that provides heat to the campus, are backed up
by their own generators or power supplies.
Recent power failures have brought
to our attention some deficiencies in our existing system.
Some examples are as follows:
- Several of
the switches that automatically transfer loads from
the electrical grid to our generators in the event
of a power failure have reached an age where they
are no longer dependable and are in the process of
- The transmitter
that powers the radios Physical Plant and Public Safety
use for emergency communications have been connected
to a reliable source of emergency back up power and
new equipment with battery back up is being ordered.
- We are looking
at ways to establish a more active program to test
emergency equipment on a regular basis during normal
- Some of the
pieces of equipment required to implement these fixes
are not stock items at local suppliers and have lead
times of 30 to 60 days for ordering. This has caused
some failures to happen repeatedly during the short
time frame these outages have occurred in.
Physical Plant is working to ensure that all emergency power
equipment works properly and is installed where necessary.
We regret the inconvenience caused by recent outages and encourage
your input and feedback on the operation of our systems during